The head of the Uganda Tourism Board has defended his country from international criticism following a change in the law which makes it illegal to be gay, saying that gay tourists are still welcome.

In an interview with eTurbo News publisher Juergen Thomas Steinmetz during the ITB travel fair in Berlin, the tourism chief Stephen Asiimwe said, ‘No gay visitor to our country will be harassed or not welcome for the only reason that he or she may be gay. Cultural policies are important in Uganda. We ask visitors to respect them. They include touching in public for example or engaging in sex with children.’

He added that the Tourism Board would guarantee the safety of gay tourists to their country and even welcomed gay travellers to enjoy the beauty of their tourism destination.

Commentators were incredulous. Richard Trillo was ‘speechless’, adding that ‘Stephen Asiimwe is simply not connected to the world the rest of us live in’.

‘He’s suggesting that it’s fine for hotels in Uganda to accommodate gay couples who happen to be foreign visitors, and yet gay staff working in the tourism industry in Uganda are to be the subject of a permanent witch hunt. How does that work? Different laws for visitors and citizens? And his comment about sex with children is deeply offensive and misplaced and shows a grotesque level of ignorance that would make most readers question his capacity to do his job at all.’

Ikahana concluded: ‘I’m sure it is a lovely country with some wonderful people, but something about putting folks in prison for consensual, loving relationships like the one I have with my husband doesn’t exactly suggest the kind of environment I look forward to with my vacation. Good luck with the campaign. You’ll need it.’

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has previously condemned the Ugandan Parliament for passing its Anti-Homosexuality Bill and cut direct aid to the country, warning it would ‘damage the rights of people belonging to minority groups, and Uganda’s international reputation.’