The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) stands in solidarity with civil society groups in Uganda in light of concerning reports of increased hostility and violence towards the LGBTI+ community.
Despite the nullification of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, a worrying climate of hostility and violence towards the LGBTI+ community has begun to escalate in the country, with the government stepping up its anti-LGBT+ rhetoric, as well as a marked increase in homophobic and transphobic violence by state and non-state actors, including the mass arrest of a group of LGBTI+ Ugandans in Kyengera, a neighbourhood in Kampala.
Threatened by mob violence, 16 LGBTI+ Ugandans were initially offered "protection" by police, before being arrested, detained and subjected to forced anal examinations. The group were subsequently charged with 'carnal knowledge against the order of nature' under Article 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, a piece of legislation inherited from the British Empire during colonial rule.
This comes after conflicting reports from government representatives earlier this month on whether a version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act would be re-introduced, as well as multiple reports from civil society groups in the country detailing brutal violence against LGBTI+ civilians, including the beating of a lesbian identified woman by a licensed doctor, a mob attack on a Rwandan refugee, and four reported cases of murder motivated by anti-LGBTI+ prejudice, including that of Brian Wasswa, a community organiser and activist.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Uganda is a signatory of the Commonwealth Charter and has explicitly committed to upholding human rights as outlined in the Charter’s principles, which specifically refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Chair of TCEN and Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND Sri Lanka, stated:
“We have been alarmed to hear of increasing violence towards LGBTI+ Ugandans and the government's potential re-introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. We urge the Ugandan government to uphold their human rights commitments, and to treat all Ugandans, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, with dignity and respect".
TCEN member organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who have been at the forefront of defending the rights of the LGBTI+ community in the face of recent attacks, have issued a clarion call strongly urging the Government of Uganda to condemn recent bouts of violence and to drop charges against the 16 LGBTI+ people recently arrested.
Frank Mugisha, TCEN Regional Representative for Africa, and Executive Director of SMUG, stated:
"Every person in Uganda must be able to enjoy the freedom of being themselves and loving who they love. The government is not only failing to protect us—they are also violating our rights as Ugandans with sham criminal charges designed to silence us and forced anal exams to humiliate and torture us. We urge allies of the LGBTI+ community in Uganda to show their solidarity in condemning these acts."
TCEN calls on the Government of Uganda to acknowledge its growing human rights violations and to respect and protect the constitutional rights of all citizens.
We further call on the African Union to ensure members states adhere to their obligations to promote and protect human rights of all citizens and we extend our solidarity to the LGBTI+ citizens of Uganda, who find themselves in an increasingly precarious environment.
As TCEN we will continue to support our member organisations in the region, amplify the voices of those suffering first-hand from institutional marginalisation, and build a collective voice to help overcome state-sponsored homo-, bi- and transphobia across the Commonwealth.