File photo: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS
File photo: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

Uganda moves to allay fears over 'Kill The Gays' law after arrest of 16 LGBT+ activists

By Nita Bhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation Time of article published Oct 25, 2019

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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

from fear.

"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.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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