Amnesty and HRW: Uganda’s anti-gay law sparks ‘surge in human rights violations’

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A new report shows homophobic persecution in Uganda has soared since the country passed its Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have released a joint report showing Uganda’s LGBT community faces widespread arrests, convictions and attacks.

LGBT 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,” the report said.

“At least one transgender person has been killed since the bill was signed, in an apparent hate crime,” it added.

At least 17 people had been arrested since the Ugandan Parliament passed the act in December 2013 on “allegations of consensual same-sex conduct with other adults or, in some cases, simply on the suspicion of appearing to be LGBTI”, the report said.

Most have since been released, some after paying bribes. 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.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act is creating homelessness and joblessness, restricting life-saving HIV work, and bloating the pockets of corrupt police officers who extort money from victims of arrest,” said Neela Ghoshal, a Nairobi-based senior rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Repealing this law is imperative to ensure Ugandans can live without fear of violence and harassment.”

The Ugandan Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that will criminalise intentional transmission of HIV as well as attempted transmission of the virus.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Uganda’s HIV law as “deeply flawed” in part because it is based on what the group called “stigma and discrimination.”

HRW has called on Uganda’s President to veto the bill.

Uganda’s Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo yesterday accused the country’s HIV support groups of “promoting homosexuality”.

He said: “We shall just suspend and close the operations of these organisations. We can’t allow them to continue promoting bad morals.”

President Yoweri Museveni last week in London met with UK ministers, officials and corporate executives as part of a Pro-Ugandan business forum hosted by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

LGBT campaigners staged a protest over his visit.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law further criminalising same-sex sexual activity, allowing repeat offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in prison, was given presidential approval by Yoweri Museveni in February.

Mr Museveni defended the legislation by saying that gay people give each other worms through sex.

He also described gay people as “disgusting”.

The Ugandan Government last month announced plans to introduce a new law that would prohibit non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from “promoting homosexuality”, further tightening rules on same-sex activity in the country.