The letter from physicians, researchers and academics explaining the science of sexual orientation and the impact of laws criminalizing homosexuality that appeared as a full page ad in a Uganda newspaper last week went directly to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni today, with the endorsement of 14 organizations (including the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog), and 77 individuals. The nine signers from Uganda alone include a former Vice President of Uganda, Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.
Dr. Kazibwe, the first female Vice President of an African country, held that office from 1993 to 2004, was named in August as United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and is a senior advisor to the President of Uganda on population and health. A surgeon with a PhD in global health from Harvard, she joined other scholars and practitioners answering questions posed by Museveni on whether homosexuality was an abnormality and whether it was a condition from which people can be “cured” or “rescued.” The letter explains to Museveni that “respected medical and sociological bodies around the world could not be more clear in response to both questions: Homosexuality is not a pathology, an abnormality, a mental disorder, or an illness — it is a variant of sexual behavior found in people around the world.” The letter also explains the public health impact of the law, which punishes homosexuality with life in prison, and threatens prison time for anyone found to be “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” saying that it would criminalize those offering urgently needed health services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The bill, the letter says, “blatantly defies highly corroborated scientific evidence and it would have a harmful impact on public health [and] human rights . . .” Signers also include physicians and researchers from South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Europe, Asia and the U.S. working in sub-Saharan Africa.
While news outlets have reported that Museveni rejected the bill, his December 28 letter on the bill to Uganda Parliament members indicated only that he had questions on the reasoning behind the legislation and the correctness of the Parliamentary procedure through which it was passed. The bill formally was presented to him for his signature on January 23, with 30 days to take action on it.