SA silent on Ugandan anti-gay bill

Uganda's President signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law yesterday.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law on 24 February. Picture: Stock.XCHNG.

JOHANNESBURG - As outrage grows over Uganda's new anti-gay law, one of that country's most prominent human rights activists has urged South Africa to take a stand and condemn what many are calling draconian laws.

Yesterday, President Yoweri Museveni enacted the law providing for life imprisonment for homosexuals.

Museveni said the law is needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa and he advised his opponents to 'keep quiet'.

"If you don't agree, you must just keep quiet. If we are wrong we will find out by ourselves."

The move has been met with shock from across the world but South Africa has remained silent on the matter.

Activist Dr Paul Semugoma says the new provisions will make life impossible for homosexuals.

"Kissing my partner is something I can be imprisoned for life in Uganda. I can be repatriated back to Uganda if South Africa has an extradition treaty with them."

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says it's shocked by the silence of South African leaders.

The TAC's Marcus Lowe, says "it's been shocking how silent we have been on this matter. If only Archbishop Desmond Tutu had spoken out."

The new law will punish people convicted of having gay sex with jail terms up to life, according to drafts of the legislation.

It will also make it a crime to promote gay activity and to fail to report someone for breaking the new law, again according to drafts.

The law delivers a blow to Uganda's seemingly impressive fight against Aids because homosexuals are too afraid of imprisonment to go for testing and treatment.

Meanwhile, the US says it is reviewing its relations with Uganda.