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KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan male lawmaker has provoked outrage among rights activists by exhorting men to beat their wives in order to discipline them, in comments carried by a Ugandan TV channel.

Onesmus Twinamasiko's remarks followed a speech by President Yoweri Museveni on Women's Day on March 8 in which he condemned assaults on women by husbands and called it cowardly.

"As a man, you need to discipline your wife," the lawmaker told local NTV Uganda in an interview on March 10.

"You need to, you know, touch her a bit and you tackle her and you beat her somehow, you know, to really streamline her."

The majority Christian East African country is conservative and, as in many countries on the continent, homosexuality is illegal. But physical abuse of women is a crime under laws that penalise various forms of assault.

The remarks have since triggered mostly condemnation online and in the Ugandan press.

Onesmus responded in an interview with the BBC on Monday that slaps are "fine" but "beatings which cause injuries or death" are unacceptable.

He also told Reuters that he was being comic and that his remarks were misunderstood.

"It is a shock that an honourable member of parliament ... could mention such words that justified violence," said Diana Kagere Mugerwa, program officer at Uganda's Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention.

She also said he should make a public apology to women and the nation "because he is abrogating the constitution that he swore to protect."

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema, Editing by William Maclean)

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