Uganda: Students Arrested for 'Promoting Homosexuality'

By Thom Senzee

Originally published on Advocate.com July 10 2014 5:43 PM ET

Five Ugandans have been arrested under the country's draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act on charges of allegedly "promoting homosexuality" to minors, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala.

The newspaper reports that those arrested include a teacher, two students, and two businessmen. Police reportedly arrested the group over the course of a week, after locals informed police of their suspicions that the group was "carrying out clandestine movements in both primary and secondary schools in the district, luring the pupils and students" into homosexuality, according to the Monitor. The alleged crimes reportedly took place in Uganda's Pader District, located about 250 kilometers north of the capital city of Kampala. The names of those arrested were not mentioned in the report, nor were the dates of their apprehensions.

The Monitor article twice mentions the fact that Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act provides especially harsh penalties of up to life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality." It also notes that the definition of aggravated homosexuality includes "acts with a minor while HIV-positive."

But notably, the newspaper does not report any formal charges of aggravated homosexuality filed against any of the accused. The report does, however, include an ambiguously worded quote from a Pader District police official named Romeo Ojara Onek. Onek told the newspaper that "the suspects’ medical report is [sic] out and their files have been forwarded to the Resident State Attorney for advice, pending prosecution.”

As yet, it is unclear why medical reports would be part of the case — although forcible anal examinations are common in Uganda and other antigay nations when trying to "prove" that same-sex intercourse has occurred. Similarly, it's unclear why the Monitor focused its report so heavily on crimes that have not been alleged — yet.  

News of the arrests comes less than 72 hours after the government of President Yoweri Museveni sought to dispel what he claims have been misunderstandings about the intent of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The law's provisions mandating lifetime prison sentences for anyone who has repeated instances of sexual contact with members of the same sex, or with a minor, someone who is HIV-positive, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, has prompted many to call the Act Uganda's "Jail the Gays" law. Nevertheless, Museveni's administration claims the law is not intended to punish gay people, but rather to protect children.

International donors to Uganda, including the United States, have incrementally cut or redirected tens of millions of dollars in aid to the east African nation since its president signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law last February.

The report gave few details about the charges of "promoting homosexuality," nor did it say if or when the five would go to court.  

Meanwhile, hundreds of LGBT refugees have poured out of Uganda since the law's enactment, because they fear or have experienced violence, eviction, and police harassment. The Anti-Homosexuality Act forces landlords to evict LGBT tenants or face jail time. It also calls for health care providers and aide workers to refuse services to LGBT people, or report those who come out in the course of seeking health care.

Today in the United Kingdom, LGBT outlet PinkNews reported that a lesbian Ugandan asylum-seeker and LGBT activist would be deported back to Uganda next Sunday.

"If I am deported back to Uganda I will face imprisonment and persecution and many other acts of violence against my person,” PinkNews quotes Margret Nazziwa saying in a written statement.

Contributor: 
Thom Senzee