Four arrested at massage parlour in Uganda under new anti-homosexuality law

Protestors stand next to a uniformed officer, holding red signs that read "drop the anti-gay bill."

Four people have been arrested by police in Uganda for allegedly engaging in same-sex activity at a massage parlour, months after the introduction of the country’s notorious anti-homosexuality law.

A police spokesperson confirmed to AFP that Ugandan authorities had arrested four people – including two women – in the district of Buikwe on Saturday, noting that the operation was “carried out following a tip-off by a female informant [that] acts of homosexuality were being carried out at the massage parlour.”

President Yoweri Museveni signed the legislation, fiercely criticised as one of the world’s most draconian anti-LGBTQ+ policies, into effect in May. The law includes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

This move worsened existing laws on homosexuality, which was already illegal in Uganda, citing capital punishment for “serial offenders” and outlining a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality, from which, Museveni declared, Africa needed to “save the world”.

Uganda law a ‘tragic violation’ of human rights

Shortly before the bill was introduced, in April, police arrested six men accused of having gay sex after a 17-second video was shared on social media.

Authorities claimed they found 192 sachets of lubricants in the men’s pockets, alongside clothing decorated with the rainbow flag.

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Queer Ugandan human rights activist Arthur Kayima branded the legislation vile and said: “Rather than focusing on the real issues Uganda is facing, Museveni [causes] distraction by attacking our fundamental right to exist”.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden labelled the move a “tragic violation” of human rights, adding that Washington would evaluate the law’s implications “on all aspects of US engagement with Uganda [including the] application of sanctions and restriction of entry [against anyone involved in] serious human rights abuses or corruption.”

The US State Department has issued revised travel guidance to Uganda, citing “crime, terrorism and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation.”

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