Richard Branson urges Uganda boycott over anti-gay bill

London - British tycoon Richard Branson has urged companies to boycott Uganda over a draconian anti-homosexuality bill passed by its parliament last week.

The Virgin founder said Uganda must abandon the bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by up to life in prison, or find itself "ostracised by companies and tourists worldwide".

"I have been courted by various people and government officials to do business in Uganda. I was seriously considering it," Branson wrote on his website on Monday.

"However, the dreadful witch hunt against the gay community and lifetime sentences means it would be against my conscience to support this country.

"I would urge other companies worldwide to follow suit. Uganda must reconsider or find it being ostracised by companies and tourists worldwide."

He added: "Governments must realise that people should be able to love whoever they want."

Gay rights activists have vowed to stop Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from signing the bill into law.

It sailed through the Ugandan parliament last week after a death penalty clause was dropped.

Activists fear that Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, is likely to sign off on the bill despite an international outcry.

The legislation has strong public support in Uganda, where homophobia is widespread.

Gay Ugandans face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have also reported cases of lesbians being subjected to "corrective" rapes.

Anti-gay moves by Ugandan lawmakers have been widely condemned, with US President Barack Obama describing the bill before it was passed as "odious" and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu comparing it to apartheid.

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