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Ugandan president defends country’s harsh anti-gay bill

Despite international outcry, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill Monday that imposed harsh penalties for homosexual acts, with first-time offenders facing 14-year jail sentences.

“No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature,” Museveni said in a speech, explaining his motivation for passing the legislation. “That man can choose to love a man … is a matter of choice. After listening to the scientists, I got the facts.”

Uganda government officials applauded and laughed as Museveni signed the bill in his State House in Entebbe, the Guardian reports.

According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 28 African countries.

The legislation also includes the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for what the bill categorizes as “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined, the Associated Press reported, as “repeated gay sex between consenting adults as well as same-sex acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.”

Fred de Sam Lazaro reported from Uganda in 2012, when the bill was that would impose severe penalties for homosexuality, was a much-debated topic.

The bill originally had a death penalty, CNN reported, but that was dropped when the international community threatened to cut aid to Uganda. The U.S. is one of the biggest donors of foreign aid to Uganda, Reuters reported, currently giving more than $400 million a year.

Last week, President Barack Obama said that signing the anti-gay legislation would “complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.” Monday the White House released a statement that denounced the new Uganda law as “abhorrent.”

Navi Pillay, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement Monday that the law would institutionalize discrimination against gays and is “formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone, not just LGBT people.”

Anticipating pushback from the West, Museveni remained steadfast in his decision to pass the legislation.

“I would advise Western countries, this is a no-go area,” he said. “I don’t mind being in a collision course with the West. I am prepared.”

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