Uganda leader wants law against 'abnormal' gays shelved

Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:47pm EST
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By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - The Ugandan president has said he wants an anti-gay bill shelved for further study but described gays as abnormal and said some lesbians may be victims of "sexual starvation", according to a letter he sent to the speaker of parliament.

Uganda's parliament passed a law on December 20 that makes some homosexual acts punishable by life in prison and sent it to President Yoweri Museveni for signing. Under law, he has 30 days to sign a bill or return it to be amended or scrapped.

Homosexuality is taboo in many African countries. It is illegal in 37 nations on the continent, and activists say that few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of their jobs.

Referring to the bill in a letter to the speaker written on December 28 but obtained by Reuters and other media on Friday, Museveni said: "This is ... something we had advised to shelve until we had studied it in depth."

The bill was first introduced in 2009, and initially proposed a death sentence for sexual acts, but was amended to prescribe jail terms and life in jail for what it called aggravated homosexuality.

It becomes law if Museveni rejects it a third time. He did not say whether he had returned the bill.

Museveni is stuck between pleasing a conservative local constituency vehemently opposed to homosexuality and trying to avoid alienating Western aid donors who have denounced the law.

The United States and others have already criticized the bill. Germany cut aid to the East African state last year, citing concerns about the bill.   Continued...