Uganda president Yoweri Museveni has refused to approve a controversial bill that would have seen homosexuals jailed for life despite viewing gays as “sick” and “abnormal”. In a letter to parliament, the president suggested homosexuality was caused by a genetic flaw, or a need to make money.
Lesbians, he added, choose female partners because of “sexual starvation” and the failure to marry a man. “He does not approve of homosexuality but he believes that these people have a right to exist,” presidential spokesman Tamale Mirudi said, explaining why the bill had been rejected.
Museveni, a key regional ally of the US and the European Union, has already been under fire from key Western donors over alleged rampant corruption and had faced calls from diplomats and rights groups to block the legislation.
But the spokesman insisted the president was not backing down in the face of international condemnation.
“What the president has been saying is that we shall not persecute these homosexuals and lesbians. That is the point. That is the message. Maybe society can resent them but they cannot be persecuted because of their problem,” Mirudi said.
“It was not because of a lobby. Nobody has influenced the president. The president’s position has been the same for a long time, nothing has changed,” he added.
Museveni, who is a devout evangelical Christian, said the best way to stop people being gay was to improve the African nation’s economy and give young people jobs. Although he has refused to sign off on the legislation, the president left little doubt that his homophobic outlook remained intact.