CAPE TOWN (AFP) - South African peace icon Desmond Tutu warned on Sunday that Uganda's controversial anti-gay law recalled sinister attempts by the Nazi and apartheid regimes to "legislate against love".
The Anglican cleric said he was "very disheartened" to learn that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni intended to sign a bill that will see homosexuals jailed for life, urging him instead to clamp down on rape, child abuse and the sex trade.
"In South Africa, apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected of making love to blacks," Mr Tutu said in a statement. "It was demeaning to those whose 'crime' was to love each other, it was demeaning to the policemen - and it was a blot on our entire society." Mr Tutu dismissed the arguments of Museveni's science advisors who concluded that homosexuality was a learned, rather than genetically-determined behaviour - and therefore could be "unlearned".
"The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race," Mr Tutu argued.
"But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love... There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification.
"Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts." Uganda's anti-gay bill cruised through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop an extremely controversial death penalty clause, although the bill still says repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, and also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.
Museveni rallied behind the bill this month despite earlier opposing it.
"My plea to President Museveni is to use his country's debate around the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a catalyst to further strengthen the culture of human rights and justice in Uganda," Mr Tutu said.
He argued that Uganda should step up criminal sanctions against child sexual abusers, rape, sexual violence and commercial sex, "regardless of gender or sexual orientation".
"Tightening such areas of the law would surely provide children and families far more protection than criminalising acts of love between consenting adults."