Kampala - Uganda's tough new anti-gay law has sparked a “surge in human rights violations”, including arrest, job loss, eviction, and the killing of at least one transgender person, campaign groups said on Thursday.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have “faced a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion, loss of employment, evictions and homelessness, and scores have fled the country”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International said in a joint report.
“At least one transgender person has been killed since the bill was signed, in an apparent hate crime,” the report added.
President Yoweri Museveni in February signed a bill that calls for “repeat homosexuals” to be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and obliges people to denounce gays to the authorities.
The law drew international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
Critics have said Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.
At least 17 people had been arrested since parliament passed the bill in December on “allegations of consensual same-sex conduct with other adults or, in some cases, simply on the suspicion of appearing to be LGBTI,” the groups said.
Most have since been released with charge, some after paying bribes, the groups said. Others said they were sexually assaulted in custody, and at least one was forced to undergo anal examinations as police sought to prove he was gay.
With tabloid newspapers printing pictures of scores of people alleged to be gay, at least 100 have fled the country, and many more have been forced to move home.
One transgender activist was evicted from home and is now living with nine friends who faced similar pressures.
“The people staying with me are traumatised, they are like slaves in their own country,” the activist was quoted in the report as saying.
The new law means many gay people fear accessing health services in case it leads to their arrest, said HRW's Neela Ghoshal.
“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,” Ghoshal said.