Ugandan leader ‘blocks anti-gay bill’

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iol pic afr uganda gay rights AFP A man looks in 2012 at an advertising by campaign group Avaaz in the state-owned Ugandan newspaper The New Vision, protesting against an anti-homosexuality bill. Picture: MICHELE SIBILONI

Kampala -

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has refused to approve a controversial bill that would see homosexuals jailed for life, saying there were better ways to cure the “abnormality”, a report said on Friday.

In a letter to parliament, the president said homosexuality was caused by either “random breeding” or a need to make money. And lesbians, he said, choose female partners because of “sexual starvation” and the failure to marry a man.

But he said the best cure for the condition was to improve the African nation's economy, the independent Daily Monitor newspaper said.

“The question at the core of the debate on homosexuality is what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?” the president was quoted as writing in a letter to parliament.

“Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons,” he argued.

The anti-gay bill cruised through the Ugandan parliament last month after its architects agreed to drop a death penalty clause.

Although he has refused to sign off on the legislation, Museveni left little doubt that his homophobic outlook remained intact.

“You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people,” he said, adding that other people became gay for “mercenary reasons”, or, in the case of lesbians, a lack of sex with men.

The report said the president believed that improving Uganda's economy - including rapid industrialisation and modernising agriculture - was the best way to “rescue” young people from the risk of “disgusting behaviour”.

Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Gay men and women in the country face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have also reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.

In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.

Aids activists say that if passed the bill would have prevented gays from having access to essential public health information, such as how to protect themselves from HIV and how to access life saving treatment and support services. - Sapa-AFP


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