Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has asked parliamentarians to "reconsider" a controversial anti-LGBT+ law in a letter read out Wednesday in parliament, urging them to keep the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations but not of "being homosexual.
Human rights organizations and Western governments have expressed outrage over the bill, which was passed on March 21 and imposes severe penalties for those who engage in same-sex relationships and threatens sanctions.
"I am sending the bill back to parliament for reconsideration," wrote Yoweri Museveni, saying that "certain provisions must be reconsidered and reviewed" in a letter read by the deputy speaker of parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, to the elected representatives gathered in session.
The head of state urged the elected officials to "make a distinction between being homosexual and engaging in homosexual acts," even though he frequently refers to homosexuality as "deviance".
"It is obvious that our society does not accept homosexual conduct or acts, so the proposed law must be clear so that what is criminalized is not the state of a person with a deviant propensity but rather the acts of a person acting on or promoting that basis," the president writes.
He added: "The bill ought to be changed to include a provision that clearly states...that a person who is presumed or suspected to be homosexual and who has not engaged in a sexual act with another person of the same sex is not engaging in an act of offence"
The law's listed penalties are not mentioned. Advocates for gay rights claim that the original text stipulates that anyone who engages in homosexual activity is subject to the death penalty and life in prison if they commit the same crime more than once.
Although it is a part of Ugandan law, the death penalty has not been used since years ago.
In Uganda, homosexuality is prohibited, and since a law from British colonial times, relationships deemed to be "unnatural" are subject to a life sentence.
The "duty to report acts of homosexuality" section, which Museveni claims "presents constitutional challenges and could be a source of conflict in society," was also requested to be reviewed by lawmakers.
He added that the law ought to make it easier for homosexuals who come "seeking help" to be "rehabilitated."
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