April 22, 2016 at 4:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Report: Anti-LGBT persecution increased under Uganda law

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2004 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

A report that a Ugandan advocacy group released on Friday indicates persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity increased after the country’s president signed an anti-gay law in 2014.

The Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) report documents 264 “verified cases of human rights abuses against LGBTI Ugandans” between May 2014 and Dec. 31, 2015.

The report indicates that 84 of these cases were loss of property and employment and other forms of intimidation. Forty-eight of the 264 cases of anti-LGBT persecution involved violence, which included “torture by the state.”

President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act under which those convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts faced life in prison.

The report — based on research that SMUG conducted with its member organizations Breakers Uganda, Spectrum Uganda and the Rainbow Health Foundation Mbarara — notes there were 162 cases of “persecution against” LGBT Ugandans in May 2014, compared to eight in 2013 and 19 in 2012.

“When the president signed the law the citizens felt they were more empowered and they had a right to actually take action against the LGBTI people,” SMUG Research and Documentation Officer Richard Lusimbo told the Washington Blade on Thursday during a telephone interview from the Ugandan capital of Kampala. “We saw a high increase of people saying, Oh yeah I’ll evict you’ or ‘I’m evicting you from my house because the president signed the law.’”

Lusimbo told the Blade that health care providers also refused to treat LGBT people because “they were scared that they would be arrested.”

The Constitutional Court of Uganda struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act in August 2014.

Lusimbo told the Blade that the ruling did little to stop anti-LGBT persecution in his country.

“To some people they still felt the courts had let them down so they needed to do something,” he said.

‘We continue to administer Victorian laws’

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The report notes Section 145 of the Ugandan penal code, which dates back to the British colonial period, states that anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” could face life in prison. Kenya and India are among the countries in which colonial-era sodomy laws remain in place.

“We continue to deal with the colonial legacy,” Lusimbo told the Blade. “Even after we are no longer under the British colonial rule, we continue to administer Victorian laws.”

The report calls upon the Ugandan government to repeal the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. It also urges the country to extend basic rights to its LGBT citizens.

“Uganda’s leaders must recognize that it is their duty to be defenders of all of Uganda’s people,” reads the report.

Anti-LGBT U.S. evangelicals ‘need to be held accountable’

SMUG released the report two days after the British Foreign Office issued an advisory that warns travelers about anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi.

“If we can have a British government saying, ‘Look we can’t allow people to go there,’ I think it really speaks volumes and it actually calls more to be done not only by the British,” Lusimbo told the Blade. “All governments and all citizens of the world need to stand up and speak against discrimination.”

The U.S. cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses in the country in the wake of Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively, an American evangelical pastor, in 2012 on behalf of SMUG for allegedly exploiting homophobic attitudes in Uganda before MP David Bahati introduced the measure in 2009.

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry traveled to Uganda last summer.

Lusimbo told the Blade the U.S. should continue to engage with the Ugandan government over its LGBT rights record. He added the White House should also speak out against Lively and other anti-LGBT American evangelicals who travel to the country.

“There is need for people to be held accountable for their deeds,” said Lusimbo.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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