LGBTIQ activists in Uganda confirm that on Sunday, November 10th, an LGBTIQ-friendly bar in Kampala was raided and 125 people arrested and charged with drug possession, indicating an intentional and growing persecution of LGBTIQ people in the country.
The bar in question is an LGBTIQ friendly bar, and has been used by local activists for community events for over seven years. It was the only bar raided on the evening in question, indicating a clear targeting of LGBTIQ people. According to Kuchu Times the people arrested are due to appear in court within the next couple of days.
Kasha Jacquelin, a Ugandan LGBT activist, told OutRight:
“The past has shown that it is difficult to prosecute anyone for being LGBT. Using trumped-up drug charges is a new and frightening tactic; one which is really hard to tackle and will make our battle even tougher.”
Persecution of LGBTIQ people has increased in Uganda in recent months, as rumors of the so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Act” which would impose the death penalty for same-sex relations have resurfaced. At least four people have been killed in suspected hate-motivated attacks. Arrests of LGBTIQ people have also increased. Prior to the raid carried out on November 10th, 16 people were arrested and charged with “trafficking in persons” and “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” at the end of October.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, commented:
“The resurfacing of the anti-homosexuality bill in a country which already prescribes life imprisonment for same-sex relations could only have had one intention - to increase hate and stigma against LGBTIQ people, putting them at heightened risk of arbitrary detention and attack. That is exactly what is happening. The growing intensity of arrests, the clear targeting of an LGBTIQ friendly bar, makes it painfully clear that a witch hunt is being mounted against LGBTIQ Ugandans.”
Same-sex relations have been criminalized in Uganda since British colonial times. Articles on “unnatural offenses” and “indecent practices” have been retained in the Penal Code since independence. “Carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between men carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Act,” prescribing a death penalty for same-sex relations, was first passed by the parliament of Uganda in 2013 and signed into law by President Museveni in early 2014. It was invalidated by the Constitutional Court of Uganda on procedural grounds the same year. According to local activists and a Thomson Reuters article, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity of Uganda, Simon Lokodo, has indicated an intention to reintroduce the bill.