Uganda: WLUML/VNC Statement on the Situation of LGBT Rights Activists in Uganda
WE CONDEMN RENEWED THREATS TO UGANDAN LGBT RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network and the Violence is not our Culture (VNC) Campaign condemn the recent police raid on a workshop for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights defenders in Entebbe, Uganda. This act is an outright violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of human rights defenders, which are guaranteed under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter, both of which the Uganda government has signed and ratified.
Reportedly, the police acted under the direct orders of the country’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, who personally led the raid. Minister Lokodo declared the workshop to be ‘illegal’ and gave the activists an ultimatum: immediately leave the hotel where the workshop was being held or face the full force of the police. He also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, a prominent Ugandan LGBT rights defender and founder of Freedom and Roam Uganda, the country’s only exclusively lesbian organisation. Just over a year ago, Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death after being ‘outed’ (full names and photographs were printed) in a front-page tabloid story that called for the executions of “Uganda’s top homos”. Jacqueline’s name and photo also appeared in this article, along with allegations that she hosts gay orgies at her mansion. In fact, Jacqueline and her colleagues live and work in nondescript, discreet locations behind high walls so that neighbours cannot see them and report them to the police. The reasons for her attempted arrest were not immediately clear, but are ostensibly linked to Kasha Jacqueline’s attempt to challenge the Minister’s actions. Kasha Jacqueline has now been forced into hiding.
The raid took place just a week after the reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Ugandan Parliament. National and regional campaigning in Uganda, and indeed throughout Africa against the initial bill in 2008 by activists and people of all backgrounds- including clergy, HIV and AIDS activists, feminists, human rights activists, writers- became in essence the largest and most varied support for LGBT rights Africa has ever seen - disproving attacks by the proponents of the Bill and the fundamentalist forces behind it that LGBT rights are a 'western' import. The international public outcry, including from aid donor countries, eventually forced the government to distance itself from that Bill.
If passed, the current Bill would impose the death penalty on those who participate in “serial” homosexual acts; increase the penalty for homosexual acts from 14 years to life imprisonment; and stipulate fines and jail terms for anyone who fails to report homosexuals to the authorities. This Bill has also been strongly criticized, in Uganda and in Africa as well as globally – by various States and civil society organisations – as explicitly anti-human rights and anti-democratic, and in contravention to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the ICCPR and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party.
We urgently call upon the Government of Uganda to use its power and authority to:
- Protect its citizens against threats, violence and harassment based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity;
- Pay particular attention to the security of Ugandan LGBT rights defenders; promptly act against all threats or hate speech that are likely to incite violence, discrimination, or hostility toward them; and guarantee their fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly;
- Reaffirm its stance against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and call for its complete withdrawal.
21 February 2012