By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com May 12 2014 4:35 PM ET
One of the few surviving advocacy groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans reports that anti-LGBT attacks have increased tenfold since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was first ratified by Uganda's parliament last December.
U.K. newspaper The Guardian obtained a copy of the report from Sexual Minorities Uganda, which reveals a staggering 162 incidents of anti-LGBT violence since December, including an attempted lynching, violent mob attacks, arrests, firings, evictions, suicides, and homes being burned down. SMUG reported just 19 incidents of such targeted violence in 2012, according to the Guardian.
"The passing of [Anti-Homosexuality Act] has given permission to a culture of extreme and violent homophobia whereby both state and non-state actors are free to persecute Uganda's LGBTI people with impunity," the report read.
Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalizes even the "intent to commit homosexuality" with lengthy jail sentences, also prescribes mandatory lifetime imprisonment for anyone convicted of "aggravated homosexuality," which includes any same-sex marriages, repeated instances of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults, and as well as any such contact where one party is a minor, HIV-positive, mentally disabled, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The Act, which Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed into law on February 24 amid widespread international outcry but broad popular support within Uganda, also criminalizes the vaguely defined "aiding and abetting homosexuality," which extends to anyone providing services, housing, shelter, or encouragement to someone believed to be LGBT.
The law's prohibition on "promoting homosexuality" has already been used to crack down on nongovernmental organizations fighting HIV and AIDS, including the April police raid of an HIV program funded in part by the U.S. military in conjunction with Uganda's Makere University. To justify arresting clinic employees, police claimed that a weeks-long undercover operation had revealed the clinic was "carrying out recruitment and training of young males in unnatural sexual acts," while confiscating educational information about safer sex practices, condoms, and lubricant.
The latest report from SMUG notes that more than two dozen formerly out LGBT people have already fled the country, including prominent activists like John "Long Jones" Wambere, who recently applied for asylum in the U.S. after his name address, along with those of others, have been published in tabloids nationwide listing "Uganda's Top Homos."
In fact, SMUG's latest report lists 20 separate instances where Ugandans perceived to be LGBTI were outed by local newspapers, then subjected to further persecution, including being kidnapped and beaten. Beleaguered, many activists and formerly out LGBTI Ugandans have gone underground, and some have considered — and even completed — suicide in the wake of escalating, state-sanctioned violence against the maligned community.
Last week, the first pair of LGBT Ugandans to ever face a trial for "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" saw their hearing postponed until June, while the two individuals accused — a 24-year-old businessman and a 19-year-old transgender woman — were granted bail for the first time since they were arrested after being attacked by a mob in January.