Trial Delayed for LGBT Ugandans as Activists Picket President in London
Two LGBT Ugandans who were scheduled to face formal charges of "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" were granted bail Wednesday, the day their trial was to take place, for the first time since they were arrested in January, BuzzFeed reports.
The trial, the first in the country's history to bring formal charges regarding alleged gay sex, was rescheduled for June 12 after prosecutors announced they had enough information to proceed with the case.
Kim Musika, a 24-year-old businessman, and Jackson Musaka, a 19-year-old transgender woman, are facing charges under Uganda's amended penal code, Section 145, which prohibits consensual sexual relationships between members of the same sex. They are, notably, not being charged under the nation's recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, since they were arrested before the bill was signed into law. Regardless, the two Ugandans face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if they are found guilty of violating the colonial-era law.
The pair were arrested at separate times in January, though they are among at least 12 Ugandans currently awaiting trial for charges relating to homosexuality, according to activist and blogger Colin Stewart. Although homosexuality has been criminalized in the East African nation since the early 19th century, when Uganda was a territory of the United Kingdom, the recent legislation, infamously known as the "jail the gays" law, has fostered an increase in state-sponsored homophobic sentiment and anti-LGBT violence.
Since Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law February 24, LGBT Ugandans have been arrested, beaten, kidnapped, evicted from their homes, and harassed. Many prominent activists and LGBT organizations have been forced underground or to flee the country, while Ugandan police last month raided an HIV and AIDS organization that was funded in part by the United States and operated in conjunction with Uganda's Makere University. Police arrested several clinic workers, claiming that they were "recruiting" young men into homosexuality by advocating for safer sex practices.
Those are just a few of the reasons that London activists took to the street to protest a forum where the Ugandan president was speaking Wednesday, according to U.K. human rights advocates with the Peter Tatchell Foundation, which assisted with the demonstration. Museveni was in London to speak at the U.K.-Uganda Business Forum, an event reportedly backed by the English Foreign Office.
The demonstration, held outside the St. James Court hotel, where Museveni was delivering evening remarks, was organized by the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, and supported by StopAIDS and the Tatchell Foundation. Throughout the duration of Museveni's remarks, protesters waved flags and banners, played drums and vuvuzelas, and chanted.
"It is hypocritical for the U.K. government to claim to be promoting LGBTI rights internationally and at the same time rolling out the red carpet for regimes like Uganda that persecute gay people," said Edwin Sesange, the Ugandan Director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group in a statement following the demonstration. "The U.K. government should come clean on its progress with promoting gay rights in countries like Uganda that they host and collaborate with."
"Gay people are not the cause of Uganda’s problems," said Peter Tatchell in the same press release. "The government of Uganda should fight poverty and HIV, not gay people. It is two-faced for the U.K. government to condemn homophobia while hosting President Museveni, whose government has legislated one of the world’s most draconian antigay laws. The Anti-Homosexuality Act punishes any form of same-sex contact — even mere kissing and caressing — with mandatory life imprisonment."
See more photos from the London demonstration below.