President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni opposes the death penalty for gays, the country’s ethics minister has said.

James Nsaba Buturo said the provision was likely to be removed from the country’s anti-homosexuality bill, saying that reparative therapy would work better.

According to Canadian Press, he said: “The death penalty is likely to be removed. The president doesn’t believe in killing gays. I also don’t believe in it. I think gays can be counselled and they stop the bad habit.”

Aston Kajara, minister of state for investments, has also said the bill is “unnecessary”.

Museveni has not spoken publicly on whether he believes homosexuality should be a capital offence.

But he is said to be encouraging his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to remove the provision.

The private member’s bill would impose the death penalty on gays who sex with minors, disabled people or while living with HIV. Other homosexuality offences would result in life imprisonment.

Mary Karoro Okurut, a spokeswoman for the ruling party, said: “Although the president is against some parts of the bill, the bill has to stay.

“[Homosexuality] is not allowed in African culture. We have to protect the children in schools who are being recruited into homosexual activities.”

However, the MP who tabled the bill said he would not back down.

David Bahati said: “We have our children in schools to protect against being recruited into [homosexuality]. The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on.”

The bill is expected to come before parliament in late February or early March.

It has received worldwide criticism from human rights groups, politicians and church leaders.