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Ugandan aid in jeopardy after passage of anti-gay bill

Development minister prepared to cut government out of Danish funds


Gay rights activist Clair Byarugaba talks to journalists in Kampala after Uganda's parliament today adopted an anti-homosexuality bill (Scanpix / AFP PHOTO / Isaac Kasamani)

December 23, 2013
10:45

by Justin Cremer


In Uganda, being gay could soon lead to life imprisonment. That country’s parliament passed a long-discussed bill on Friday that carries strict punishment on homosexuality. It now awaits the signature of President Yoweri Museveni.

The bill, which is actually called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has been heavily criticised since its introduction in 2009. It quickly picked up the name ‘The Kill the Gays Bill’ because of a a provision that would apply the death penalty to certain homosexual acts.

Although that provision has been dropped, homosexuals in Uganda can still be subjected to life imprisonment and under the conditions of the law, merely renting a flat to a gay person could lead to a five-year prison sentence for landlords. The bill’s ban on ‘promoting’ homosexuality could also make it a crime to offer HIV counseling, NPR reports.

READ MORE: Uganda's anti-gay bill puts Danish support in question



Development Minister Rasmus Helveg Petersen urged Uganda's president to block the bill (Photo: Scanpix)

Development minister: Danish aid could stop
The bill has faced stiff opposition from Western countries, including Denmark. And while the Development Ministry said as recently as August 2012 that Danish development aid to Uganda would continue despite the bill, its actual passage has now led to a change of tune. 

The development minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen (R), said that if Museveni signs the bill into law, the flow of Danish development aid will circumvent the Ugandan political system and instead go directly to “democratic forces” within the African country.

“The development in Uganda is sad, and the proposal to discriminate against homosexuals is deeply unacceptable,” Petersen told Berlingske newspaper. “If the Ugandan Parliament insists on pushing through this law, it should have serious consequences. I will not rule out that it could lead to stopping the portion of Denmark’s development aid that goes through the government.”

According to Petersen, some 105 million kroner goes to the Ugandan government, approximately a third of the 300 million kroner Denmark provides. The Danish contributions to Uganda are the third largest donation the country receives. 

Petersen said that he hoped Museveni would refuse to sign the bill into law. 

“The people who can make a difference in this case are Uganda’s president and prime minister, who have opposed the law,” Petersen said. “I really hope they will block it before it ever takes effect.”

READ MORE: Uganda aid to continue despite controversial anti-gay bill

“The worst anti-gay law in the world”
According to the Washington Post, Museveni’s signature on the bill remains uncertain. The paper reports that he has spoken out against homosexuals but lately has seemed to soften his stance by saying he only opposes gays who “promote” themselves. 

Museveni will also need to consider the balance between the threat of losing Western aid and opposing a bill that, while deeply unpopular abroad, easily passed parliament and has significant public support amongst Ugandans.

Frank Mugisha, a gay rights activist in Uganda, told the Washington Post that the passage of the bill “a truly terrifying day for human rights in Uganda” and called the bill “the worst anti-gay law in the world.”


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