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Report: First Arrests In Uganda Under Anti-Gay Law

Reports have surfaced that two men have been arrested under Uganda's new anti-gay law signed into law last month. The men were detained at a hotel in the town of Jinja earlier this week.

Uganda2According to Trending Newsroom, a hotel employee reported them to police:

Two men were nabbed in a Kampala hotel after a lodging attendant caught them having sex and subsequently informed the police. According to reports, sexual moans were heard about 20 minutes after the men had checked into the room they had booked in the hotel. Shortly after being informed, the police arrived at the scene, handcuffed the two men and took them away.

Suspected gay citizens have also apparently been ousted from their homes. The New Civil Rights Movement reports on at least two instances where landlords have issued eviction notices to tenants. One letter reads:

UgandaI am writing to inform you that you have been evicted from the house you live in because of the stories [about your gay lifestyle] that appeared on Bukedde Television and in the print media. We can no longer live with someone like you. Therefore, vacate the premises before the 5th of May 2014

Meanwhile, gay rights activists and politicians have challenged the revolting law in the country's courts:

The group called Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law are calling on the court to rule that the new law violates Uganda’s constitution, because it encourages discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Nicholas Opiyo, a Ugandan lawyer who helped to draft the petition, said the group are asking judges to issue an interim order which stops police officer from implementing the laws.

Kenyan Majority Leader to Investigate Why Laws Criminalizing Homosexuality Aren't Being Enforced

After three Kenyan MPs demanded to know why laws criminalizing homosexuality aren't being enforced sufficiently, the Leader of the Majority Coalition in the National Assembly, Aden Duale, is being directed to issue a report on the matter to the House, All Africa reports.

DualeDuale said he would need more than one month to investigate and file a report in the House, terming it a controversial issue.

“I need to make trips both to the neighbouring countries and to more developed nations, because I need to consult across the borders how this thing can be handled,” stated the Majority Leader. “Mr Speaker you will indulge me if by one and half months I will not have an answer then you will give two or three years.”

Kangata said that in spite of the existence of prohibitions on homosexual behaviour, gays have had leverage to operate with impunity in Kenya as the State appears helpless in cracking down on what they insist are illegalities.

He cited the provisions of Section 162 of the Penal Code, which prohibits same-sex relations and provides a jail term of not less than 14 years for those convicted of the felony.

The three MPs who demanded the investigation last month were prompted by pro-gay rallies in Nairobi and Mombasa in support of gays in Uganda.

Life Under Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Law: An Interview with Activist Richard Lusimbo


Last Friday, Richard Lusimbo woke up to discover his face on the front of the Ugandan tabloid, Red Pepper, which had been outing known homosexuals all week. The headline beside Lusimbo's photo read "How I became Homo."

LusimboLusimbo is the research manager for SMUG (Sexual Minorities in Uganda - Facebook) and as of last Monday, February 24th, his organization was officially declared illegal when President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Law. I caught up with Lusimbo last week after he spoke on a panel at RightsCon in San Francisco, a conference hosted by Access, an international human rights organization that defends and extends digital rights of users at risk around the world.

"What happened when you discovered your face on the front of Red Pepper?" I asked Lusimbo.

“At that moment I felt weak, not because I was scared for being outed, I felt weak because I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be; the info was misleading.

“When I logged onto Facebook I found so many hate messages. ‘If I see you I’m going to kill you. You are such a disappointment.’ I had to deactivate my Facebook account. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing. My father was very disappointed. He always said, be whoever you are, do what ever you do, but don’t be in the media and there I was being exposed.”

Lusimbo could not walk around in public. He had his passport renewed for his trip to the U.S., but couldn’t go to the passport office to pick it up; a friend went for him. He was afraid that the authorities would think he needed his passport to travel around to promote homosexuality. He ended up missing his flight, and left on Saturday.

Since then his life has turned upside down. His high school, where he was a student leader, wants to erase him from their records. Some family members don’t want to talk to him anymore. Some of his friends are shunning him and sending him hate messages.

Said Lusimbo: “I feel scared and threatened for my life because this kind of exposure is not the kind you want. It puts you at risk – calls for action from the society and the community to act, to take you down as the evil, so that is why I fear. The community that we live in is the most dangerous because people could do anything. The mere fact that Museveni has signed the bill, they think it is ok for them to do anything to you because the law says so; that is the greatest fear I live under now.”

UgandaYet Lusimbo has no fear of allowing us to publish his photo: "At this point in time, I have been outed twice in the newspapers and each time it has happened it has come with its new challenges. I am already a face for the LGBTI in Uganda and so my picture appearing would be of no problem, although I can't limit how the tabloids would choose to use it next time."

Lusimbo is returning to Uganda anyway.

"At the end of it all, home is home," he said. "I have friends around the world who are worried about me returning, so are several in Uganda, and they have offered to support me in whatever possible way to stay safe here, but leaving home (Uganda) is not that easy. I have my whole life there, family and friends, the work that I love so much – thinking about all that makes me more determined than ever to return home. I amplify the voice of my people whose voice wouldn’t be heard if I left. I want to contribute to the development of Uganda like any other citizen, and I can only do that when there."

What is life like for LGBTI people in Uganda?

“People live in fear. It is not easy to come out to family or to say you are gay… you don’t give accountability to just your father or your family, but to your whole clan and the church.

“The Evangelicals have a big influence in Ugandan society and have taken to the pulpit to preach hate. Given this kind of homophobia and discrimination, people are scared. For example, if we organize a pride parade, very few people would want to come out. They don’t want to be outed. They don’t want to be activists because they are being put at risk. People tend to stay to themselves.

“People have dropped out of school and are therefore not economically empowered and are not well educated. It is hard for them to get jobs. And at work you are working as an illegal person and in your own community you are an outcast.”

LGBTI people are also being denied services in hospitals. Lusimbo said: “There have been surveys showing that LGBTI people within these communities have a high risk of getting HIV AIDS and living positive. People can’t walk into a health facility with their boyfriend and say, ‘I have come for HIV testing.’ I’d be thrown out of the hospital with my partner. If I say I’m HIV positive, I won’t get the proper medicine.”

RedpepperLusimbo added, “Tabloids, like Red Pepper, have made it very difficult. Their coverage is biased and they misrepresent. Ugandans are only hearing one side of the story, promotion and recruitment; that homosexuals are promoting the evil in the society. The only place where we have been able to give the other side of the story has been online and through foreign media.”

Lusimbo said they continue to see LGBTI people being arrested by the police and charged with no offence. Instead, the police contact the media who show up to document the event. This makes it very difficult for people arrested to return to their communities where they live, sometimes forcing them to relocate.

“The LGBT community in Uganda is not well resourced,” said Lusimbo. SMUG offices have been raided several times. Some of the information gathered from these raids has appeared in Red Pepper and other tabloids. It has been difficult for them to operate as a full-fledged organization.

What impact will countries cutting foreign aid, based on the anti-homosexuality bill, have on Ugandans, particularly the LGBTI population?

“If aid is just cut in general terms, the local person is going to suffer. This includes LGBTI people. It will promote the isolation of the LGBTI community and we will continue to be marginalized. People like David Bahati that have been promoting homophobia are going to go on the radio and say, ‘Look, people are dying because of the homosexuals. We can’t have medicine in hospitals because of homosexuals. We can’t have good water because of homosexuals.’ These are government responsibilities but because our economy hasn’t reached a point where President Museveni can support this, we are still depending on foreign aid.”

Lusimbo added: “We need to look at sectors where the government will feel a direct pinch. If that funding that the US gives to the army, if that were stopped, then that would have a direct effect. Donor countries should rethink and go back to the drawing table and look at how they could actually fund.”

The concern is if aid is cut due to the anti-homosexuality bill, the pinch could have a trickle down effect on Ugandan taxpayers, Lusimbo said. “We have seen billions disappear in scandals. The money sent through the prime ministers office to support the development of Northern Uganda, didn’t go to any work, it was just swindled away. Ugandan taxpayers money was used to pay it back.”

What can American LGBTI people do to help?

“People should continue to air their disapproval of such a law and show their dissatisfaction. To continue to highlight not only LGBTI rights, but to talk around the whole diminishing space of the civil society in regards to human rights, Lusimbo said. "Continue to ask your leaders, president Obama and other influential people to not show their dissatisfaction by halting talks with the Ugandan government, but should open up a dialog around this issue."

Finally, Lusimbo suggested, "Support organizations who support people at risk and appeal to the American government to look into giving asylum for LGBTI people who would want to seek refuge in the US."

Orange Telecom Cuts Ties with Ugandan Tabloid Which Outed Gays

Orange Redpepper

Orange Telecom announced via Twitter on Friday that it had ended its contract with the Red Pepper tabloid, the publication which named a list of Uganda's '200 Top Homos' days after President Museveni signed an anti-gay bill into law.

The tweet came in response to a petition by activist group All Out for them to remove ads and commit to protecting LGBT employees in Uganda.

Said Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of All Out: “We commend Orange for their leadership in reaction to the Anti-Homosexuality Law. Orange’s decision to withdraw their advertising and to explicitly support their LGBT employees should ring alarm bells for Ugandan politicians and business people about the impact this law could have on the national economy”.

Sweden Cuts Aid to Ugandan Government Over Anti-Gay Law


Sweden has joined Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands in directing aid away from the Ugandan government following the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act by President Museveni last month:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sebastian Tham said Wednesday that Sweden will immediately cut planned aid worth 6.5 million kronor ($1 million) to the Uganda government, but will continue with other non-governmental programs. In 2013, the total amount of Swedish aid to Uganda was $35 million.

Zimbabwe President Mugabe Just Learned There are Homosexuals in His Country, Backs Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe spoke out in support of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Law on Monday and condemned Western nations for threatening to cut aid, AFP reports.

MugabeSaid Mugabe:

"They (the West) want to tell us... that it's a violation of human rights, that is what they are doing to Museveni right now...The human right you have as a man is to marry another woman not to get another man to marry, we refuse that. It's a terrible world we are in, a terrible world where people want to do things that they feel will enhance their own interests."

Mugabe also said that he has become aware of a group of gays in Zimbabwe and plans to investigate:

"I understand we have a group of homosexuals in this country. I didn't know until I was told the day before yesterday. So we want to check on who is in that group."

AFP notes: "The Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has long operated in the country despite Mugabe's ranting against homosexuality. Police have on several occasions raided the GALZ offices and prosecutors had laid charges against the association accusing it of operating an unregistered organisation."

Mugabe spoke out against gays last July no less than seven times, threatening to chop off their heads:

 “If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads. This thing (homosexuality) seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed. Imagine this son born out of an African father...Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.”

Mugabe has previously claimed that gay men pose a threat to women's rights, condemned the "gay filth" of European culture, as well as threatened the U.K.'s prime minister over their support of same-sex couples.


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