Uganda: Threats of Arrests and State-Sponsored Violence Against Gay Men, Lesbian, Transgenders

 

Contact: Cary Alan Johnson, Senior Africa Specialist, New York, 1.212.430.6053

IGLHRC is concerned for the safety of leaders and supporters of the LGBT community in the East African nation of Uganda, after senior officials went on the public and private radio stations to call for the arrest of leaders of the country’s LGBT. Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhinde and Minister of Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Butoro, have has called for the arrest and deportation of gays and lesbians and asked private citizens to report “known homosexuals” to the police.

On August 16, 2007, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights groups, held a press conference to launch their campaign, “Let Us Live in Peace,” designed to obtain basic rights, respect and dignity for LGBT people. On August 21, a coalition of anti-gay religious groups held a public rally in Kampala at which they led demonstrators in demanding government action against LGBT people. The rally also called for the deportation of an American journalist writing for the Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, that has reported on the experiences of gays and lesbians in Uganda. The tactic of shutting down public debate on issues of homosexuality is not a new one in Uganda. In October 2004, Radio Simba was fined for broadcasting a show on HIV and homosexuality and in the government banned the play the Vagina Monologues by UN Ambassador Eve Ensler.

Verbal and physical against anyone suspected of being gay or lesbian, or supporting LGBT rights, has increased since these statements by Mr. Ssempa, Sheikh Bukenya, and members of the Uganda Government including Ethics Minister and Government Spokesman James Nsaba Butoro. To offer but a few examples:

  • On August 9, the Red Pepper, a local newspaper published the names of 50 Ugandans who are supposedly gay or lesbian. This is the third time that the Red Pepper has engaged in such sensational journalism. In such a homophobic environment, gay- and lesbian-baiting increases violence and discrimination. IGLHRC has received reports that a number of people who were “outed” are in danger of loosing their jobs and their housing.
  • On Monday, August 28, a 25-year-old man named Brian was attacked by three people unknown to him around 12:00 midnight, as he was returning home to Kireka, a suburb of Kampala. The perpetrators reportedly said, “He is the one',” before beating him up and fleeing.
  • On Wednesday August 22, at around 7 p.m. Dan K. was attacked, verbally and physically abused by parishioners at St. Matia Mulumba Church in Old Kampala, after attending a mass at which the priest openly attacked gays, lesbians and homosexuality in Uganda.
  • Like Sam O. and several other SMUG members, Paul K., a taxi driver and one of the SMUG members who openly display his face at August 16, 2007 press conference, has been receiving threatening telephone calls. During a call he received on August 28, Paul recognized the voices of other taxi drivers with whom he works telling him that he was would be beaten if he came to work at his usual taxi stand. Paul O. has left his home for fear of retribution by neighbors who recognized him from the television and newspaper coverage of the press conference.
  • Nickie was accosted by a man at a bar called “Ground Zero” at Wandegeya at around 10 pm on August 31, 2007. The patron shouted, “she is one of them,” manhandled her, and stopped her playing a game of pool.
  • On August 30, 2007, Brenda, a transgendered person, was informed by neighbors that they could and would beat him up “anytime they liked.”
  • Capital One radio presenter, Gaetano Kaggwa was suspended on August 29, 2007 by the Broadcasting Council for broadcasting a show about lesbianism. (newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/583941)

To make matters worse, a local newspaper, the Red Pepper, has continued its policy of printing the names of men and women presumed to be gay. In an article published on September 9, 2007, they published the names, address information, and places of employment of 39 men, placing their security, employment, and housing in jeopardy. Such breaches of journalistic ethnics are common in Uganda, as are attacks of members of the media who attempt to portray issues of sexuality more fairly.


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is the only human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or murder because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists on the ground in countries around the world, by monitoring and documenting abuses, by engaging offending governments, and by educating international human rights officials. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg, San Francisco and Buenos Aires. http://www.iglhrc.org.