Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they protest against Uganda’s tough stance against homosexuality, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi in 2014. File picture: Ben Curtis/AP
Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they protest against Uganda’s tough stance against homosexuality, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi in 2014. File picture: Ben Curtis/AP

16 Ugandan LGBT+ activists arrested for gay sex

By Nita Bhalla Time of article published Oct 24, 2019

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Nairobi - Uganda said

on Thursday it had arrested 16 LGBT+ activists on suspicion of

gay sex - punishable with life in jail - in what campaigners

called an escalating campaign against sexual minorities in the

east African nation.

The 16 men, believed to be aged from 22 to 35, were taken

into custody late on Monday at the office of a sexual health

charity where they all worked and lived, fellow activists said.

It was not clear if the men had been formally charged or

when they might appear in court.

A police spokesman said officers had found lubricants,

condoms and anti-retroviral drugs at the charity, and had

conducted anal examinations on all 16.

"Based on the medical examination report, it was established

that the suspects were involved in sexual acts punishable under

the penal code," police spokesman Patrick Onyango told the

Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Fred Enanga, Uganda's national police spokesman, said the

state attorney was considering the case before any court

appearance.

Gay sex carries a possible life sentence in Uganda, one of

the most difficult countries in Africa to be a sexual minority

with increasingly violent confrontation over sexual freedom.

Members of the LGBT+ community say they risk physical

attacks in their daily life and routinely encounter harassment,

as well as facing prejudice over work, housing and health care.

Campaigners have reported a spate of attacks this year -

including four murders - with the latest on Oct. 4 when a gay

rights activist was bludgeoned to death.

Police say they know of no such attacks.

Earlier this month, a minister proposed introducing the

death penalty for gay sex, a threat retracted by the government

after international donors condemned the move.

Activists said the raid was a new step-up by police.

"Normally we will hear of maybe one arrest of someone from

the community under these anti-gay laws in one month, but it is

really unusual to see 16 people charged like this," said Frank

Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).

"The 16 activists have been held by police for over 48

hours, forced to undergo anal examinations. We are expecting

them to be produced before court today."

The men all worked for a charity called "Lets Walk Uganda",

whose offices are on the outskirts of the capital Kampala.

They were initially taken into "protective custody" after a

crowd yelling homophobic slogans surrounded their office, rights

groups said. Police said the group was detained after they were

alerted to "illegal activities" by the community.

Under the penal code, any person who has "carnal knowledge

against the order of nature" - gay sex - or anyone who accedes

to anal sex is liable to life imprisonment.

(

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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