Uganda’s President Museveni: Gays Aren’t So Horrible After All

Aug 13, 2014 at 1:41 PM ET

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni came under fire earlier this year when he signed a controversial anti-gay bill that criminalized sex between consenting adults of the same gender. But now he’s having an about-face and saying that gay men and women are OK—well, sort of.

The courts struck down the original law this month, but it had already sparked a firestorm of criticism from other nations, including three European countries that, along with the World Bank, cut aid to Uganda. (Such aid makes up 20 percent of Uganda’s overall budget.) Now President Museveni, worried about further backlash in the form of reduced aid and halted trade agreements, has asked parliament to re-issue the bill with adjusted wording so that it doesn’t criminalize gay sex conducted in private.

“We agreed to come up with a new version that doesn’t hurt our Western friends, but also protects Ugandans,” said lawmaker Medard Bitekyerezo. “He said he wants the law back in the house, but now says if two consenting adults go into their room and decide to be stupid, let them be.”

Clearly, Museveni hasn’t had a complete change of heart. He wants to ramp up parts of the bill to discourage what he sees as an issue endemic to the gay community: men preying on kids. “What he said he doesn’t want—and which we must even increase the penalties—is recruitment of children and exploiting financially vulnerable youths,” said Bitekyerezo.