In May 2023, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), which prescribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts and criminalizes the promotion and support of homosexuality. The law, which has been widely condemned by human rights groups and foreign governments, has sparked a wave of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Uganda.
According to a report by the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition, a network of LGBTQ rights organizations in Uganda, between January and August 2023, there were 306 documented cases of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These included torture, rape, arrest, eviction, blackmail, extortion, and mob attacks. The report said that most of these violations were committed by private individuals who were emboldened by the law and the homophobic rhetoric that preceded its passage.
The report also said that the law has created a climate of fear and intimidation for LGBTQ people, who face difficulties in accessing health care, education, employment, and justice. Many LGBTQ people have gone into hiding or fled the country to seek asylum elsewhere. The report also noted that the law has increased the cases of mental health problems among LGBTQ people, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
The role of the state
The report said that while state actors were responsible for only 25 of the documented violations, they played a significant role in creating and enforcing the law. The report accused the government of using the law as a political tool to divert attention from other issues such as corruption, poverty, and insecurity. It also said that the government has failed to protect LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination by private actors.
The report also highlighted the use of forced anal examinations by the police as a method of gathering “evidence” of homosexuality. The report said that this practice is a form of torture and violates international human rights standards. It quoted one survivor who said: “Surviving a forced anal examination at police is something that lives with you forever.”
The report also criticized the judiciary for not upholding the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people and for being influenced by political and religious pressure. It said that at least six people have been charged under the AHA, including two who face the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. It also said that many LGBTQ people have been denied bail or legal representation.
The call for action
The report called on the Ugandan government to repeal the AHA and to respect and protect the human rights of all its citizens regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It also urged the government to investigate and prosecute all cases of violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people and to provide them with adequate support and services.
The report also appealed to the international community to continue to pressure Uganda to respect its human rights obligations and to provide humanitarian assistance to LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. It also asked the international community to support local LGBTQ rights groups and activists who are working under difficult and dangerous conditions.
The report also urged LGBTQ people in Uganda to remain resilient and hopeful despite the challenges they face. It said: “We are not alone. We have each other. We have allies. We have a voice. We have a future.”