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This is What Life is Like Under Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law

This is What Life is Like Under Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have joined forces to raise awareness of the near ten-fold increase in violent attacks on LGBTI people in Uganda and the worsening state-sanctioned persecution the community is suffering since Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law passed in December 2013.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty’s research spans several Ugandan towns and includes interviews with a number of people from members of the public to human rights lawyers and refugees, as well as organizations that provide health services. One of the most startling things they found was details of at least 17 arrests on suspicion of violating the anti-homosexuality law since it came into effect earlier in 2014, some of them because the people simply appeared to be LGBTI. That figure might not sound that high, but between 2007-2011, only 23 people in total were arrested for violating Uganda’s existing laws against homosexuality. None of those ended in successful prosecutions.

The new wave of arrests sends a chilling message to Uganda’s entire LGBTI population that the administration is looking for them and will, at the slightest provocation, attempt to prosecute. Yet this isn’t the only real world effect of the law.

Human Rights Watch details how landlords are applying the law to say that not only can they kick out LGBTI tenants, but that they have to so that they aren’t prosecuted. This has meant that nearly all the people interviewed had needed to move house in order to prevent suspicion. In addition, LGBTIs who previously owned businesses have reported being subject to extortion and having their businesses closed down. LGBTI employees have also faced being fired for no other reason than their perceived identity. That’s not all. LGBTIs can’t even afford to get sick, and even when they do, they might not get the treatment they need.

Police raids on HIV-awareness and sexual health clinics — none of which appear to have actually broken any laws but because they have United States and European affiliations are subject to suspicion — have increased considerably. In fact, Uganda’s Simon Lokodo, the Minister for Ethics, has just this month said he intends to close down any and apparently all sexual health clinics that he believes are promoting homosexuality, adding, “We shall just suspend and close the operations of these organisations. We can’t allow them to continue promoting bad morals.” Lokodo has already made good on that promise, with raids of institutions like the Makerere University Walter Reed Project, just one of the casualties in his anti-gay witch-hunt.

The legislation also appears to be putting patients at risk. A trans man who reportedly sought treatment for a fever was questioned about his gender, whereby he was told, “What’s a trans man? You know we don’t offer services to gay people here. You people are not even supposed to be in our community. I can even call the police and report you…You’re not even supposed to be in the country.” The man was eventually forced to pay for the doctor’s silence to the tune of 50,000 Ugandan shillings (just under $20).

Bribery isn’t confined to the medical field, however. Amnesty International and Human Rights watch also found evidence that the police demanded bribes up to $635. Some trans detainees reported being sexually assaulted while in custody and one trans woman with HIV was denied her medication. There were also reports of forced anal exams so as to “confirm” homosexuality.

The report further details that violent assaults against LGBTIs have risen in the country — though official records are sketchy on this, and for good reason. To compound this problem, LGBTIs cannot go to the police to make formal reports, and if they have, they have reported facing homophobic abuse which meant they were unable to take their complaints further.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act is creating homelessness and joblessness, restricting life-saving HIV work, and bloating the pockets of corrupt police officers who extort money from victims of arrest. Repealing this law is imperative to ensure Ugandans can live without fear of violence and harassment. Within just five months of the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill through parliament, we are seeing its dramatic effects on the health and well-being of LGBTI people,” Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying.

Two men are awaiting trial, Kim Mukisa, 24, and Jackson Mukasa, 19, after being charged with breaking the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The men, who are the first to be tried under the new law, were arrested in January after fleeing from an anti-gay mob attack. What penalties they will receive remain to be seen, but human rights groups will be watching the situation closely to see how judges in the country interpret the new anti-gay laws and what punishments are ultimately used.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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51 comments

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1:00PM PDT on Sep 11, 2014

When people stop fighting each other and start working together, then we may see peace. Until then it will be piece-s.

7:39AM PDT on May 24, 2014

thanks for sharing.

9:54AM PDT on May 23, 2014

Let us stop all this hate and judging , we are all equal . There is nothing wrong with loving somebody from your own gender , love is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated . So many people go through life never knowing/finding love . Let us celebrate when people do find it !

1:42PM PDT on May 22, 2014

There are now 76 countries that criminalize Homosexuality with various penalties - 76!
And, as people here very well know and have stated -
a LARGE NUMBER of these countries NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF SUCH A THING, until "Christian" missionaries from U.S. organizations such as "The Family", went over to African - and to Eastern European! - countries to SPREAD THEIR HATE.

Institutionalized Homophobia found an ENTHUSIASTIC WELCOME among all corrupt and anti-Democratic forces.
#1] It takes attention away from REAL problems that tyranny can't deal with, such as extreme poverty. It provides a SCAPEGOAT. Yes, just exactly like Hitler and the Jews. SAME dynamics, exactly.
#2] It INCREASES CONTROL AND TERROR. MORE excuses to jail people, MORE paranoia, MORE necessity for hypocrisy and lying. MORE excuses to extort bribes and blackmail, too. Increases arbitrary power of the police, para-military and vigilante groups, and the government.
This is just MADE TO ORDER for any petty Dictator or power-hungry rising Politician!
So, this DEADLY INFECTION by the "Christian" Religious Right Missionaries, caught on like a WILDFIRE....
Much to their glee! A Blueprint for what they'd like to plan for ALL of us, back home...

2:24AM PDT on May 22, 2014

ty

8:55PM PDT on May 21, 2014

( if they could??? That is just so totally illogical! Think about it!

8:54PM PDT on May 21, 2014

I really DO wnat you to know that there are milions of Christian people all over the world that are TOTALLY non-judgemental when it comes to the subject of gays! We believe we are put on this earth to just love EVERYONE, even if, in the case of say, the terrorists, we hate what they do. We were told not to judge our brothers as that is GOD'S job. You are quite at liberty to tell someone that YOUR belief is that you don't think people should be gay. but don't expect them to suddenly change becase YOu said they must! ( What about all those naughty blind people and those awful cripples, surely THEY must have been horribly evil as it tells us in the Old Testament that we should treat them as DIRTY!!! we should maybe tell THEM how wicked they are and jail them! AND those awful children when they are a bit rude to a parent, well, we all know that our God hates children being a bit rude and that is why he told parents to kill them! Quite right too! So obviously in YOUR Mind it is right when you tell gays that they are going to hell! You seem to have missed the depth and height and width of God's love totally! It is crazily wrong to think that all gays have a CHOICE!!! I had one friend many years ago when gay people in England were still being jailed who actually went through as serious of electric shocks to try and stop being gay! It didn't work! Don't you think in a country like Africa where people are actuallyly in danger their lives for being gay that they would't chan

7:00PM PDT on May 21, 2014

awful

11:10AM PDT on May 21, 2014

I want the US to at least come out strongly against this.

2:46AM PDT on May 21, 2014

Thanks for sharing!

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