Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has reportedly blocked the nation's notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill on a technicality, according to Uganda's Daily Monitor.
In a lengthy letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Museveni alleges that a quorum was not present on the day she pushed the bill through, which would render its passage void. Furthermore, he rebukes her for moving forward with the measure even after he said it should be shelved so the government could study the issue in greater detail.
"Some elements, however, insisted and even without quorum of Parliament, passed it," the President said. "How can you pass law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?"
But don't think President Museveni has developed a soft spot for the gays:
The President said a homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race. He said, nature goes wrong in a minority of cases.
While in the Bill passed by Parliament there is no provision for killing homosexuals; the President said, "The question at the core of the debate of homosexuality is; what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?"
Museveni also apparently used the occasion to expound on his theories about the supposed causes of homosexuality: "random breeding" in Western societies, economic disempowerment, and financial incentives.
Yes, seriously. Details, after the jump.
The President said that he believes homosexuality can be cured, rejecting the "Western" position that it's a naturally occurring variation of human sexuality. ""You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation," he said. "It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people."
Predictably, Museveni's musings on homosexuality focused especially on the male variety:
The President said apart from the people who are abnormal, it seems there is a group of those that become homosexual for "mercenary reasons"--they get recruited on account of financial inducements. He said this is a group that can be rescued and that many of the youth fall in this category.
He did have a few thoughts about lesbianism, though:
As for lesbians, the President said apart from those born abnormal and those ones that may become lesbian for mercenary reasons, there may be those that go into the practice because of "sexual starvation" when they fail to get married.
According to the Monitor, Museveni indicated that the ruling NRM Party would be able to find a "scientifically correct position" on the proposed law.
And what about these mysterious (i.e. non-existent) recruiters who apparently roam the land offering fistfuls of cash to entice impoverished but "normal" Ugandans into homosexuality? Museveni said he supports locking them up for life.
His solution for combating homosexuality is simple: jobs, jobs, jobs.
The President said the rescue for homosexuals is first and foremost, economic, focusing on rapidly industrialised Uganda, modernisation of agriculture etc. By delaying government projects needed to create jobs for the unemployed youth, the President said the MPs are exposing the unemployed youth or "impecunious students" to the risks of homosexuality and other temptations.
I wouldn't break out the champagne yet -- this bill has been declared dead before only to come back strong -- but even a brief reprieve is encouraging.
UPDATE: Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, who has been following the ups and downs and twists and turns of this bill for years, provides further context and counsels caution:
But the important point is this: If Daily Monitor has it right, it would appear that the ball is now back in Parliament's court, where Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who reportedly harbors Presidential ambitions herself, has been an outspoken supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to Uganda's Constitution, the President can send the bill back to Parliament twice before Parliament must muster a two-thirds majority to force the bill into law. What remains unclear is whether this constitutes the bill's first return trip to Parliament under the constitution if Parliament didn't have the proper quorum to pass the bill in the first place.
Update: Caution may be in order. According to Daily Monitor, the letter was dated December 28. Multiple news reports since the start of the new year have Museveni saying that he will bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the entire ruling party caucus before deciding whether to give his assent or send it back to Parliament. But this report has him sending it back before bringing it before the caucus. Now that doesn't mean he hasn't sent it back. But if he did, it changes the character and possible outcomes for the party caucus. I think more clarification and confirmation is in order before we celebrate.
We'll keep you posted as soon as we know more.
UPDATE, 1/17/14, 7:00 PM: Last night's report from Uganda's Daily Monitor, which said that President Museveni had "blocked" the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and was picked up by news outlets worldwide, is FALSE. The bill is still alive. Click here for the latest.