Uganda charges 20 LGBT+ people with risking the spread of coronavirus after ‘targeted’ police raid

Uganda charges 20 LGBT people with risking the spread of coronavirus

Uganda police charged 20 queer people with defying social distancing rules, but activists said authorities are using the coronavirus pandemic to target LGBT+ minorities.

LGBT+ people in Uganda face extreme violence, including from law enforcement.

Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister Simon Lokodo announced plans in October 2019 month to re-table a “Kill the Gays” bill, which was first floated several years ago but was not enacted.

However, a spokesperson for the president later denied that it would impose the death penalty for gay people, and said that the current punishment of life in prison “already handles issues of unnatural sexual behaviour”.

But now it appears Ugandan authorities are coming up with new ways to target LGBT+ people.

According to Reuters, 14 gay men, two bisexual men and four transgender women were arrested on Sunday, March 29, when police raided a shelter on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Police said that the LGBT+ people in the shelter were “congesting in a school-like-dormitory setting within a small house”, defying rules recently put in place to stop groups of more than 10 people congregating.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni told the public to stay home for 32 days starting March 22 to curb the spread of COVID-19. There have been 14 confirmed cases in the country.

Patricia Kimera, a lawyer with Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, told Reuters: “They are always using alternative charges to arrest people for unnatural offences so it just worked perfectly for them.

“But definitely the reason they have been arrested is their sexual orientation.”

Deputy police spokesperson Patrick Onyango denied that the people were targeted for being LGBT+, saying: “We still have offences of unnatural sex in our law books.

“We would charge them with that law, but we are charging them with those counts as you can see.”

Earlier this month, a leading Ugandan lawmaker and one of the chief architects of the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill claimed she had a “miracle cure” for the coronavirus which basically sounds like soap.

In an address to parliament and a tweet, speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga described a “spray” which “instantly kills the coronavirus”, and said its inventor donated the patent to Ugandan officials.