Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign a controversial new anti-homosexuality bill, which carries the death penalty in some cases, and has called for it to be amended.
Museveni's decision was announced late Thursday after a meeting of MPs from his ruling party, almost all of whom support the bill. The meeting decided to send the bill back to the National Assembly "with proposals for improvement", according to a statement.
Mr. Museveni condemned homosexuality at the meeting in the capital, Kampala, saying "Europe is lost. So they want us to be lost too", according to footage released by the public broadcaster UBC.
Museveni also praised lawmakers for approving the bill, which drew international condemnation. " I commend you for this strong stance," he said in the released video.
"It's a good thing that you rejected the pressure of the imperialists. And that's what I told them. Every time they come to see me, I tell them: 'You, shut up if he please".
A presidential spokesman said Museveni was not opposed to the sanctions proposed in the bill, but wanted lawmakers to consider "the issue of pardons".
“Mr. Museveni told MPs he had no objections to sentencing, but had doubts about rehabilitating people who have been gay in the past and would like to find a new life. normal life," spokesperson Sandor Walusimbi tweeted.
It was agreed that the bill would return to Parliament for pardons to be considered before he could sign it into law.
Homosexuality is already illegal in the East African country under a colonial-era law that criminalizes sexual acts "against the order of nature". This offense is punishable by life imprisonment.
The international community is pressuring Mr. Museveni to veto the bill, which must be signed by him to become law. The United States has warned of the economic consequences of passing this law.
A United Nations panel of experts called the bill, if passed, a "gross violation of human rights". In a statement released earlier on Thursday, Amnesty International urged Museveni to veto what the organization calls a "draconian and overly broad" bill.
"The passing of this appalling bill is a heartbreaking moment for the LGBTI community and their loved ones in Uganda," Agnès Callamard, president of the association, said in the statement. "No one should ever be criminalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
The bill has broad support in Uganda, including from religious leaders and others who have called for a tough new law against gays.
It was introduced by an opposition MP, who said its aim was to punish the "promotion, recruitment, and funding" of LGBTQ activities in the country.
Only two of the 389 deputies present during the voting session opposed the bill. The bill provides for the death penalty for the offense of "aggravated homosexuality" and life imprisonment for "homosexuality".
Aggravated homosexuality is defined as cases of sexual relations involving people infected with HIV as well as minors and other categories of vulnerable people.
Prison sentences of up to 20 years are proposed for those who defend or promote the rights of LGBTQ people. A suspect convicted of "aggravated homosexuality attempt" can be jailed for 14 years and the offense of "attempting homosexuality" carries a sentence of up to 10 years, according to the bill.
Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has grown in recent weeks following press reports of acts of sodomy at boarding schools, including at a prestigious boys' boarding school where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son.
The Church of England's February decision to bless civil marriages of same-sex couples has also angered many people in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, some of whom consider homosexuality imported from abroad.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa's 54 countries.