A new report documenting 264 verified cases of persecution suffered by sexual and gender minorities in Uganda indicates continued human rights abuses and social exclusion in the country, according to its authors.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) released the report, "And That’s How I Survived Being Killed": Testimonies of human rights abuses from Uganda’s sexual and gender minorities, last week. It details incidents of violent attacks, torture, arrest, blackmail, press intrusion, termination of employment, loss of physical property, eviction, mob justice, and family banishment of LGBTQI Ugandans.
"Of the 264 cases documented in this report 48 involved acts of violence, including 35 cases involving physical threats or violent attacks, and 13 instances of torture by the state," the report states.
"The largest proportion of documented cases involved intimidation, with 84 cases, while 73 involved loss of property (including loss of employment, physical property, and eviction), and 59 involved social exclusion (including discrimination when accessing healthcare, community discrimination, and family banishment)."
The report suggests Uganda's modern homophobic social and political climate is rooted in laws introduced by the British colonial administration in 1902 and 1950, as well as a "recent influx of homophobic rhetoric from American Christian evangelicals".
The passage of Uganda's controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2013 saw a rise in persecution against sexual and gender minorities, the report says. The act introduced harsh new penalties for same-sex activity despite homosexual acts already being illegal. Despite the nullification of the act by the country's Constitutional Court in August 2014, SMUG suggests those abuses have continued, and homosexuality is still criminalised.
One of the testimonies featured in the report is that of a 22-year-old, identified as "Daniel", living in Ntungamo in Western Uganda. Daniel details his arrest for “engaging in crimes against the order of nature” in 2015.
"They took us on foot to prison. When we were being arrested police said that we are homosexuals, there have been reports to police and they have been looking for us — that people have been saying we’re gay and that we should be killed because what we do is illegal and bad."
"After 20 minutes of getting to my friend’s house we were asked [by police], 'What are you doing here? It’s not a bar, or hotel and it’s late.' They beat us and tied us up with ropes and took us around town and said they want the town 'to know what’s happening' and 'what you have done,'" Daniel said.
"Later they took us on foot to prison. When we were being arrested police said that we are homosexuals, there have been reports to police and they have been looking for us — that people have been saying we’re gay and that we should be killed because what we do is illegal and bad."
Daniel, along with his two friends Ssali and Emmanuel, were taken to Lubale prison, forced to take an anal examination, and brutally beaten by police officers and other inmates, the report says.
Among the report's recommendations are calls to decriminalise homosexuality in Uganda immediately and for the Uganda Police Force to investigate all cases of abuse detailed in the report.
It also calls on the international community to assist in refugee issues stemming from the alleged abuses, and to conduct a needs assessment for LGBTQI Ugandans to ensure international aid is being appropriately and effectively used.
You can read the full report here.