Ugandan LGBT Activists Arrested While Protesting Media Censorship

A collection of LGBT activists demonstrating solidarity with those calling for freedom of the press in Uganda were arrested when police broke up the peaceful protest.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

May 23 2013 4:36 PM ET

A pair of LGBT activists in Uganda were arrested this morning as they peacefully protested a government blackout of independent media.

According to activists on the ground in Uganda, several LGBT Ugandans and an American photojournalist joined other demonstrators in a peaceful rally demanding freedom of the press. The activists held a mock funeral procession for the independent radio outlets and newspapers that were recently shuttered by Ugandan officials, but police attacked the protesters, injuring photojournalist Tim McCarthy, and arrested Ugandan LGBT activists Richard Lusimbo and Komugisha Shawn.

The latest report provided to The Advocate notes that Lusimbo and Shawn are both still in jail, along with three other human rights activists who were arrested. LGBT advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda is at the jail, working to get the activists released. SMUG indicated that Lusimbo's hand was injured by police and reported that Shawn was in need of emergency medical attention. 

McCarthy posted several photos of the demonstration, both before and after the violent intervention by police. The photo above features McCarthy with SMUG executive director Frank Mugisha, and was taken before state police brutalized the nonviolent protesters. Find more of McCarthy's photos, including a shot of his injured hand, on his Instagram.

Anti-LGBT violence is all too common in Uganda and regularly occurs at the hands of police officers. When the country held its first unofficial Pride celebration last August, police broke up the parade and arrested some in attendance. Homosexuality is illegal in the East African nation, and the Ugandan parliament is still considering the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, better known by its colloquial moniker, the "Kill the Gays Bill." If passed, the legislation would further criminalize consensual same-sex relations by lifetime prison sentences, and in some cases, require the death penalty. The bill would also require friends, family members, and neighbors to report any "known homosexuals" to state authorities or risk three years imprisonment themselves. 

Despite this rabidly antigay climate, LGBT Ugandans continue to raise their voices and insist that they exist and are deserving of full recognition and equality in their native land. Richard Lusimbo, one of the activists arrested, and several of those in attendance at the rally, were featured in a photo essay published by The Advocate in January.

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