The Obama administration says it is reassessing its relationship with Uganda after that its president, Yoweri Museveni, signed into law a bill that toughens penalties against gays and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison.
"It's a sad day for Uganda," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday. "Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan president took a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality."
Carney said the administration will continue to urge Uganda to repeal the law and push instead for the protection of human rights of LGBT people.
He said the law reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
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In many African nations, homosexuality can – and does – lead to arrest, harassment, discrimination, even death. Africans have been harassed, discriminated against in health care, housing and employment and attacked because of real or perceived sexual orientation, according to a report released last year by Amnesty International. In some countries, people are arrested after being reported to police as being gay, sometimes leading to invasive medical exams as police search for evidence of same-sex conduct.
As president, Barack Obama has endorsed same-sex marriage, repealed a military requirement that service members keep their sexual orientation secret and offered gay federal employees family leave.
Human rights groups urged Obama to speak publicly about the growing wave of homophobia while he was in the continent last year, pressing nations to ensure the safety and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.