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Ugandan president speaks out against killing gays

President Yoweri Museveni did not necessarily condemn the controversial bill, but offered his thoughts on homosexuality for the first time in a long time.
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Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a press conference at his country home on September 24, 2012. This week, the president said Uganda should not legalize killing or persecuting homosexuals. (ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said that homosexuals should not be killed or persecuted in his country, offering hope for international rights activists who have been outraged by legislation that would mandate the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."

Parliament has adjourned for the holiday break, and the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill has been tabled until January, when it can be picked up again. 

However, international pressure and international threats of retribution for its passage may have had something to do with the President speaking out against a bill that does not reflect the policies of his administration. 

According to the BBC, Museveni was "careful to neither condemn the bill nor openly support it," and showed no shift from traditional Ugandan conservatism. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but it seems the president wants to leave it at that. 

He said, "If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality... We cannot accept promotion of homosexuality as if it is a good thing."

More from GlobalPost: Global pressure mounts against Ugandan 'Kill the Gays' bill

The bill has come up against fierce opposition, including from the UK, which has reportedly considered banning Ugandans from entering the country. Meanwhile, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and others have threatened to cut aid and development money to Uganda, should the bill pass.

Speaker of the Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said last month that the bill would be passed as a "Christmas present" to those who supported it, but that's impossible now. However, if parliament does decide to pass the bill after the new year, the president's veto may not matter, as the bill reportedly has enough support to overrule Museveni and pass. 

There was some confusion last month over whether a new version of the bill still contained the death penalty for homosexual acts where one partner was a minor or had HIV. Those crimes will now be punishable with life imprisonment, if the death penalty is off the table. 

The bill's original author, David Bahati, has said the death penalty was removed and that the new bill will instead focus on child pornography and same-sex marriage, according to the Huffington Post. 

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of Uganda, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle Over Gay Rights."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/ugandan-president-speaks-out-against-killing-gays