Ugandan government shamefully claims queer people fleeing its homophobia are fake ‘economic gays’

Dutch government uncovers network training Ugandan asylum seekers to pretend to be LGBT

The Ugandan government has made the absurd, offensive claim that some LGBT+ asylum seekers fleeing the country are merely faking their sexuality to live in Western nations.

Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda, which has some of the strictest anti-LGBT+ laws in the world. Most queer Ugandans survive by staying under the radar, and many who manage to escape fear death if they return.

Yet foreign minister general Jeje Odongo cast doubt on the legitimacy of queer asylum claims by pointing out that many male gay asylum seekers have wives and children.

“These Ugandans who went out on the pretext of being homosexuals. Now their lie is catching up with them because when they settle, they ask to bring their wives and children,” he said, according to Daily Sabah.

“It is unfortunate that some people who are not gays pretend to be gays so that they get citizenship in countries which sympathise with them. Such people will make developed countries lose trust in all Africans.”

The fact that many gay asylum seekers have wives is hardly surprising in a country where so many gay men are closeted, and societal pressure to marry and have children is strong.

None of this precludes a person from identifying on the LGBT+ spectrum, but Ugandan reverend Solomon Male saw it as undeniable proof that queer refugees’ sexuality is “fake”.

“All those are economic gays. Homosexuality is a business to most Ugandans who claim to be gays,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA). “It is all about getting money. Some people earn by calling themselves gays or working with organisations that deal with them.”

He alleged that some prominent lawyers were making lots of money by preparing fake documents, and claimed that pretending to be gay was now the “easiest” way to get a European visa.

This characterisation was countered by  Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country’s most prominent LGBT+ rights group.

He said there was nothing surprising about gay men marrying and having children as sexuality can be flexible; it’s also the case that many returning Ugandans may lie about their sexuality to avoid persecution.

“Someone might be sexually straight today and then the next day he might be gay and vice versa,” he said. “Because they leave Uganda as gays after being persecuted by [the] state and Ugandans, so they want to come back as different people who are no longer gays.

“The fact that the laws against gays still exist makes them come back with wives and children to live freely.”

The exact number of LGBT+ Ugandan refugees worldwide is hard to determine. In 2016 the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report saying 500 Ugandans had applied for asylum in Kenya based on their sexuality.

But LGBT+ activists say those estimates were too low because most refugees were categorised as having fled or claimed asylum for different reasons.