Uganda moves to allay fears over 'Kill The Gays' law after arrest of 16 LGBT+ activists
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Nairobi - Uganda has
sought to reassure sexual minorities that they are safe, saying
it has no plans to introduce the death penalty for gay sex after
reports of rising homophobic attacks.
LGBT+ rights campaigners in Uganda have expressed concerns
about a spate of attacks after a minister said earlier this
month that the government planned to reintroduce a bill
colloquially known as "Kill the Gays".
In a statement on Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni's
office denied that and said attacks on LGBT+ people should be
reported to police for investigation so that perpetrators could
be "brought to book".
"(The) government of Uganda does not have any plans of
reintroducing the anti-homosexuality bill on the floor of
parliament," said the statement signed by Esther Mboya, minister
in charge of the presidency.
"On allegations that members of minority communities have
been murdered, I would like to assert that protection of human
life is enshrined in the constitution," said the statement, seen
by the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.
Gay sex carries a possible life sentence in Uganda, one of
the most difficult countries in Africa to be a sexual minority
where there is increasing 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. The latest was on Oct. 4 when a gay
rights activist was bludgeoned to death.
Earlier this week 16 LGBT+ activists were detained and
charged for having gay sex after police raided their charity
office and residence, forcing them to undergo anal examinations.
Last weekend a gay Rwandan refugee was beaten outside his
office in Kampala and a lesbian woman physically assaulted by
her doctor, say activists.
Police said they had not registered any cases of assaults
specifically targeting sexual minorities.
Uganda's minister of health said on Friday that she was
aware of some of the attacks on the LGBT+ community and appealed
to health care providers not to discriminate against them.
LGBT+ activists welcomed the statements, but said more
action was needed to ensure sexual minorities could live free
"We would also urge the government to enact legislation
against hate crimes and publicly condemn hate speech such as
what is being said by some politicians which fuels homophobia,"
said Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda.
Charges against the 16 activists were a "sham" and should be
dropped, he added.
Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said on
Oct. 10 that the government planned to re-introduce an
anti-homosexuality bill in parliament within weeks to curb the
spread of homosexuality.
Lokodo's statement was widely reported and international
donors to Uganda said they were monitoring the situation closely
and stood by the rights of LGBT+ people.
A spokesperson for President Museveni later denied the plan,
saying Uganda's current penal law - which provides for up to
life imprisonment for gay sex - was sufficient.