Earlier today, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a bill establishing harsh penalties for those arrested for being gay. Under the new law, the “offense of homosexuality,” or a man having sex with another man, is punishable by up to seven years in prison, while “aggravated homosexuality,” which it describes as incest, sex with a minor or sex with someone with a disability, carries a life sentence.

The act also penalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, which entails watching or distributing gay porn or even owning a home where gay sex is taking place. Those who “promote” or “aid and abet” homosexual acts in Uganda will be sentenced to up to seven years in jail. And "[purporting] to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex" carries a life sentence.

The bill has been in the works for years, with its author, MP David Bahati, originally campaigning for Ugandans accused of same-sex activity to be sentenced to death. In the past, Bahati has told reporters that he wishes to “kill every last person” and that Ugandan men are “recruiting” Ugandan children into the gay “lifestyle” by “distributing cell phones and iPods and things like this." Museveni is also a font of such folksy wisdom, telling reporters after he signed the bill that one can contract “worms” through gay oral sex.

According to the Ugandan Observer, upon signing the bill President Museveni told journalists that the law was a response to “arrogant Western groups promoting a behavior that threatens Ugandans’ ‘way of life.’” During his press conference, Museveni also cited the work of scientists he’d enlisted in advance of the bill, citing their conclusions that there is no proven genetic basis for homosexuality.

Although the bill has been denounced by most western countries (including the United States, which has threatened to cut ties with Uganda should the bill become law), it’s quite popular in Uganda, where it’s been embraced by clerics, politicians, and scores of schoolchildren, many of whom held up signs reading “Obama leave us alone: Homosexuals have no room in Uganda” after Museveni signed the bill.

Of course, no amount of legislation will have any effect on quelling gay Ugandans’ actual desires, as indicated by this Google Trends search for “man-on-man” porn in the country. But the bill will certainly have the intended effect of driving the already-covert Ugandan gay community out of the country. At least a dozen people have fled since lawmakers passed the bill last December.

“It is a very dark day for the gay community,” says Fox Odoi, a former Museveni advisor and the only Ugandan legislator who publicly opposed the bill. “It is going to result in big harassment of gay people."

You can read the bill in its entirety here.  

H/T Gawker | Photo by DFID—UK Department of International Development/Flickr (CC BY - SA 2.0)