The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign a controversial new bill into law that could have seen gay men and women jailed for life.

Mr Museveni says that there are better ways to “rescue” people from homosexuality.

According to the Daily Monitor newspaper, the president wrote to MPs and said that if passed, gay people would go “underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons.”

He added: “The question at the core of the debate on homosexuality is what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?” the president was quoted as writing in a letter to parliament.

In the letter he suggests that men are gay to make money and women become lesbian because of “sexual starvation.”

He added: “You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people.”

In December, Uganda’s Parliament passed legislation to toughen the punishment for same-sex sexual activity, including life imprisonment for ‘repeat offenders’.

The UK and US governments, criticised the move along with business magnate and investor Sir Richard Branson – who has urged for a corporate boycott of Uganda.

Speaking at a Christmas prayers event, President Museveni said he would push the bill back to Parliament if he did not agree with it.

However, it is possible for parliamentary supporters of the bill to bypass the need for presidential approval if a further vote is tabled. They require a two-thirds majority.

The bill has been condemned by world leaders since it was created in 2009 – US President Barack Obama called it “odious”.

The private member’s bill, by MP David Bahati, originally proposed the death penalty for some offences, such as if a minor was involved or the perpetrator was HIV-positive, but this clause has been dropped.