Gay rights meeting shut down in Uganda

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Kampala - A Ugandan minister on Tuesday raided and shut down a workshop run by homosexual rights activists in Entebbe, the minister and Amnesty International said, days after a draconian anti-gay bill was re-introduced.

The London-based rights watchdog said in a statement that Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, who is also a priest, raided the workshop flanked by police and expelled its participants from the Entebbe hotel where it was being held.

Lokodo told AFP that he had broken up the gathering in his capacity as the “conscience of this country”, but said he had not been accompanied by police.

“I got a whistleblower's message that there was joy and jubilation in celebration that gays and lesbians had broken the boundaries that Uganda had set for them,” the minister said.

“I advised them to disperse. I would have gone even so far as arresting them,” Lokodo said, adding that the meeting dispersed peacefully.

“The message is clear... Uganda does not promote, encourage or applaud in any way this form of association,” he said.

Amnesty condemned the raid as “an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda”.

Ugandan police spokesperson Asuman Mugenyi said: “Gay activities are illegal activities under our law and our law has not been amended.”

Homosexuality is already punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda, but a recently re-introduced bill proposes to toughen the law, notably by criminalising acts aiding or abetting homosexuality.

The bill, which enjoys wide support in the East African country's parliament, initially envisioned making certain homosexual acts punishable by death.

But the bill's author, MP David Bahati, said last week after an international outcry that he wanted to drop the death sentence clauses. - Sapa-AFP


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