Uganda tells UN it does not 'tolerate' anti-gay conduct

Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa blamed British colonialism for laws that remain on Uganda's books which criminalise homosexual sex (AFP Photo/Isaac Kasamani) (AFP/File)

Geneva (AFP) - Uganda told the UN rights council on Thursday that it does not "tolerate" discrimination based on sexual orientation, a claim directly undermined by the government's widely condemned record on gay rights.

Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa also blamed British colonialism for laws that remain on Uganda's books which criminalise homosexual sex.

"We do not accept and we do tolerate any discrimination because of sexual orientation," Kutesa said.

He was speaking at Uganda's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a rights council forum where world nations critique a country's human rights record. Uganda was last reviewed in 2011.

Since then, lawmakers have passed a bill that called for life in prison for people caught having homosexual sex. It was signed by long-serving President Yoweri Museveni, although a court later struck down the law.

In a 2014 BBC interview conducted by British comedian and gay rights activist Stephen Fry, Uganda's ethics minister Simon Lokodo said heterosexual rape was more "natural" than homosexual sex and threatened to arrest Fry.

In August, Lokodo said anyone beaten while attending a gay pride parade would be at fault for bringing the assault on themselves.

And in September, police stormed a gay pride event in Entebbe, central Uganda, arresting most of the participants.

Kutesa told the council that Uganda was "not entirely enthusiastic about promotion" of gay rights but insisted Museveni's government was not responsible for legislation criminalising homosexual conduct.

"There are previous laws that we inherited that relate to sexual offences," he said.

He was referring to measures imposed by former colonial master Britain which ban sexual acts deemed "against the order of nature".

Uganda has amended, scrapped or made redundant countless British colonial laws, including by drafting its own constitution.

Several European as well as North and Latin American countries took the floor to urge Uganda to eliminate laws criminalising homosexuality.

Kutesa said that ending public harassment of sexual minorities in Uganda will "take time", noting that even in the West the fight for LGBTI rights "hasn't come overnight".