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Uganda government forces advocacy group to shutdown

Sexual Minorities Uganda says NGO Bureau ‘halted’ operations

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(Bigstock photo)

An LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Uganda says the country’s government forced it to shutdown on Wednesday.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a press release said Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations, which oversees NGOs in the country, on Wednesday “halted” its operations “for non-registration with the NGO Bureau.”

The press release notes current Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha is among those who submitted an application with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in 2012 “for the reservation of the name of the proposed company,” which was Sexual Minorities Uganda. 

David Kato, who was Sexual Minorities Uganda’s advocacy officer, was murdered in his home outside of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on Jan. 26, 2011. A Ugandan tabloid a few months earlier published Kato’s name and picture as part of an article that called for the execution of LGBTQ and intersex people. 

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau on Feb. 16, 2016, rejected Sexual Minorities Uganda’s application based on grounds that it was “undesirable and un-registrable” because it sought “to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under Sec. 145 of the Penal Code Act.” 

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

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject Sexual Minorities Uganda’s registration application was upheld. Ugandan lawmakers in 2019 passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which further criminalizes homosexuality in the country.

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” said Sexual Minorities Uganda in their press release. “These further compromises efforts to demand for better health services and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community.”

Mugisha described the decision as “a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements that have infiltrated public offices aiming to influence legislation to erase the LGBTQ community.” 

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which honored Mugisha in 2011, on Friday said it is “outraged by the utterly discriminatory and arbitrary decision of the NGO Bureau in Uganda to shutdown SMUG operations.”

“This endangers the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ (people) in Uganda and shows the extent homophobia has permeated Ugandan authorities,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in a tweet.

The Council for Global Equality, OutRight Action International and Pan Africa ILGA are among the other organizations that sharply criticized the Ugandan government.

“Very disturbing news out of Uganda,” tweeted Pan Africa ILGA. “SMUG, one of the most influential LGBTIQ+ focused networks based in Uganda, has been suspended.”

U.S. Mission Uganda on Saturday tweeted a link to President Joe Biden’s 2021 memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of American foreign policy.

“We reiterate our support for those committed to ensuring all people are treated with respect and dignity and able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love,” tweeted U.S. Mission Uganda.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, for its part, remained defiant.

“We shall be back,” it tweeted.

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Africa

Ugandan activists appeal ruling that upheld Anti-Homosexuality Act

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Twenty-two LGBTQ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Africa

Congolese lawmaker introduces anti-homosexuality bill

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority  last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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Africa

Prominent transgender woman in Nigeria arrested, charged with defacing currency

Authorities say Idris Okuneye, known as Bobrisky, flaunted money

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Bobrisky's arrest has sparked concern among Nigerian activists. (Photos courtesy of Bobrisky's Facebook page)

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s decision to arrest a well-known transgender woman over the practice of flaunting money has sparked questions among several human rights activists.

Idris Okuneye, who is known as Bobrisky, was first arrested last Wednesday.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Lagos Federal High Court on April 5 charged her with four counts of mutilating N490,000 (roughly $375.)

The EFCC alleges Bobrinsky between last July and August flaunted N50,000 (roughly $36) during a social event and N400,000 ($306) at another gathering last month. Bobrinsky has been charged with violating section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act of 2007.

“The Lagos Zonal EFCC, on Friday, April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of Idris Okuneye, (Bobrisky), before Justice Abimbola Awogboro sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos over mutilation of the Naira notes,” reads the EFCC complaint that misgenders Bobrisky. “He was arraigned on Friday on a four-count charge bordering on mutilation of the Naira notes to the tune of N490,000.”

“Justice Awogboro, thereafter, ruled, that upon the admission of guilt by the defendant, and following the evidence tendered, the defendant is declared guilty as charged,” adds the statement.

The EFCC said after listening to both parties, Awogboro delayed his ruling and also ordered that Bobrisky remain in EFCC custody. Activist Felix Abayomi said the EFCC was simply using Bobrisky as a scapegoat due to the fact that she is a vulnerable member of the society.

“Discrimination in the name of implementing a pick and choose law! Why go after someone that is a vulnerable member of our society? Someone that is clearly dealing and coping with stigmatization of her lifestyle choices which is innate. Using her as a scapegoat is uncalled for,” said Abayomi. “How does spraying the Naira that is cultural to us as a people ever even become a financial crime? People who commit economic and financial crimes against us as a people and against our nation state are sitting comfortably in the hollows of our legislative chambers and power.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the former chair of the National Human Rights Commission, said the arrest was not about the mutilation of the Naira notes, but about Bobrisky’s gender identity.

“The EFCC should be ashamed of themselves,” said Odinkalu. “The power of arrest and prosecution is a public trust that should not be weaponized for the persecution of those whom they don’t like. It is either the EFCC is evidently idle or this is a clear abuse of power.” 

EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale said Odinkalu’s statements were reckless.

“The commission views such commentaries from Odinkalu as unbecoming of a former head of a major government agency,” said Oyewale. “Okuneye was arrested and arraigned by the commission on the basis of clear cases of abuse of the Naira to which he has pleaded guilty.”

“Odinkalu has a right to free speech as a Nigerian, but such a right should be exercised with decorum and responsibility,” added Oyewale. “The commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.” 

Bobrisky is one of the few individuals on the African continent who has publicly discussed their gender transition.

Ever since she started to publicly show her transition, several Nigerian political pundits have been calling for her arrest. There are no laws that specifically target trans Nigerians, but the Same-Sex Marriage Act criminalizes same-sex marriages and prohibits the public display of same-sex relationships with up to 14 years in prison.

In states where Sharia law is practiced, those found engaging in same-sex sexual activities can be sentenced to death by stoning. Even those who identify as trans can receive 50 lashes or more.

Update: Awogboro on Friday sentenced Bobrisky to six months in prison without the option of paying a fine. Reports indicate authorities will send her to a men’s prison.

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