South African President Jacob Zuma has said that his country ‘respects’ Uganda’s new anti-gay law, and refused to condemn it.

Zuma was responding to a parliamentary question today, asking him to make clear South Africa’s stance on the Ugandan law, which South Africa is yet to condemn.

He wrote: “South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation.

“In this regard, through diplomatic channels South Africa engages with Uganda on areas of mutual concern bearing in mind Uganda’s sovereignty,”

The law, signed by the Ugandan president in February, imposes harsh penalties for anyone caught participating in ‘homosexual acts’, and clamps down even harder on ‘repeat offenders’.

South Africa became the first and so far only country in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage in 2006, but Zuma, elected in 2009, has long been an opponent of gay rights, and has been accused of holding the country back.

He said in 2012 that he would act ‘in a certain way’ if he ever had a gay child.