The passage of Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act has led to an almost twentyfold increase in anti-LGBT incidents, estimates a new report from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).
“Every day we hear news that someone else has been victimised,” said Frank Mugisha, head of SMUG, in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “I have never before seen our community hounded so persistently.”
The Anti-Homosexuality Act imposes sentences of up to a lifetime in prison for homosexuality, as well as makes it a crime to promote LGBT rights or “abet” homosexuality. But the report further documents that the law’s effects do not stop there. It has created a climate in which violence and intimidation has become an almost routine part of LGBT life for Ugandans.
The incidents documented in this report range from blackmail to eviction to torture. Twenty-four of the documented cases involve physical attack, including one incident in which a woman was assaulted and had her home burnt to the ground before being arrested. In at least 25 cases, the victims have fled the country to seek asylum.
Torture “is becoming so routine that a ‘torture house’ has been established, designed specifically to terrorise LGBTI people,” the report states. In one incident, a group of people posed as police officers to force three gay men to go to this house, where they were “subjected to sustained physical abuse and were told that they needed to be taught a lesson in ‘how to be a man’.”
Almost half of the people whose cases are included in this report were evicted from their homes, in part because landlords fear being prosecuted under the charge of “abetting homosexuality.”
“You are a wonderful woman as well as a tenant who hasn’t
given me any trouble over rent whatsoever,” explained one landlord in a letter quoted in the report. “Due to what is going on in the country, and your way you and your friends behave, I am sorry but I think you are a depraved person who I can no longer tolerate in my house. I also cannot fight against the government.”
The report shows that the Ugandan media plays an integral role in prompting anti-LGBT incidents through the publication of stories such as the Red Pepper story published the day after the bill became law claiming to out “Uganda’s top 200 homos.”
“Of the 29 cases reported involving the ‘outing’ of people by the press, each one included reports of further persecution,” the report states. “Two people lost their jobs; ten people were physically threatened (including one man who received death threats and another who fled the country); three people have been blackmailed; and two physically attacked.”
While the picture of life for LGBT people in Uganda painted in this report is grim, the reality may be far worse than even it describes. The report collects only cases reported to NGOs or ones that SMUG could verify — there may be many more incidents that were never reported.
“In reality, this is probably only the tip of the iceberg,” the report states.