A spokesman said Museveni did not oppose the bill’s punitive measures but wanted lawmakers to study “rehabilitation issues”.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign a controversial new bill making the death penalty punishable in certain circumstances and has called for it to be amended.
Museveni’s decision was announced late Thursday after a meeting of lawmakers from his ruling party, almost all of whom backed the bill lawmakers approved last month.
A statement said the meeting decided to return the bill to the National Assembly “along with proposals for improvement”.
A presidential spokesman said Museveni had no objection to the penalties proposed in the bill but wanted lawmakers to study “rehabilitation issues”.
“[Museveni] Spokesman Sandor Walusimbi tweeted: “He told members that he was not against punishment, but against the issue of rehabilitation for people who have been gay in the past but want to live a normal life again.”
Walusimbi added: “There is unanimous agreement that the bill will return to Parliament for consideration of rehabilitation before he signs it into law.”
Homosexuality is already illegal in the East African country under a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex “against the natural order”. The penalty for this crime is life imprisonment.
Museveni, under international pressure, vetoed the bill, which needed his signature to become law.
The U.S. has warned of economic consequences if the legislation is passed. A group of UN experts described the bill as a “gross violation of human rights”.
In a statement earlier on Thursday, Amnesty urged Museveni to veto what the group called “draconian and overbroad” bills.
“The passage of this appalling bill is a heartbreaking moment for Uganda’s LGBTI community and their loved ones,” the group’s leader, Agnes Callamard, said in a statement. “No one should be criminalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The bill has broad support in Uganda, including from church leaders and others who have called for tough new laws against gay people. It was introduced by an opposition lawmaker who said his aim was to punish the “promotion, recruitment and financing” of LGBTQ activities in the country.
Only two of the 389 lawmakers who took part in the vote opposed the bill.
Sentenced to death
The bill provides for the death penalty for the crime of “serious homosexuality” and life imprisonment for “homosexuality”.
Serious homosexuality is defined as cases of sexual relations involving people living with HIV as well as minors and other vulnerable groups.
A prison sentence of up to 20 years is recommended for those who advocate or promote the rights of LGBTQ people.
Under the bill, suspects convicted of “attempt to aggravate homosexuality” can be sentenced to 14 years in prison, while “attempted homosexuality” can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
Anti-gay sentiment has soared in Uganda in recent weeks amid media reports of sodomy in boarding schools, including a prominent boys’ school where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son.