Uganda security forces raided a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth last week and arrested 23 people, including a nurse and the shelter’s executive director, charging them with unwarranted COVID-19 offenses after considering charging them under anti-homosexuality laws.
Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) reports: “The Police first considered charging them with having carnal knowledge against the order of nature under section 145 of the Penal Code, but this was later changed to doing ‘a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act, and ‘disobedience of lawful orders’ under section 117 of the Penal Code Act. This was in the context of the Presidential Directives on COVID-19 which incidentally require people to stay indoors, the exact thing that the people at the shelter were doing.”
Two people were beaten upon arrest. Three have been released on bond, “one of whom was the nurse and the other two for medical reasons.” and the other 20 have been sent to prison until April 29 when they are scheduled to appear in court.
Here’s how it went down, according to HRAPF: “On Sunday the 29th of March 2020 at about 11am, HRAPF received a call from the Executive Director of Children of COSF requesting HRAPF to respond to a raid by security officials and community leaders at their shelter located in Kyengera, Wakiso district. The HRAPF team composed of a lawyer and Community Paralegal went to the shelter but found that 23 persons had been arrested and taken to Nkokonjeru Police Post. There was one Local Defence Unit member who informed the two that he had instructions to arrest anyone who came to the shelter, and as such he put the lawyer and Community Paralegal under formal arrest.”
The group continued: “After about one hour, the two were also taken to Nkokonjeru Police Post, where the Officer in Charge released them since the he knew them to be HRAPF lawyers. At the station, they met their clients who had been arrested. Information gathered shows that the community members in the area and the leadership were worried about the ‘homosexual’ behavior of the youths who they believed to be a bad influence in the area. They involved the Mayor of Nsangi Municipality, Hajj Abdul Kiyimba who stated that such behavior could not be tolerated in the area. He led the team that raided the shelter, assisted by members of the Local Defence Unit and the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”
“After being questioned, the group was detained at Nkokonjeru Police Post,” HRAPF added. “While at the station, a crowd continued to gather, some of whom even threatened the HRAPF lawyers. A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality.’ Some of the items recovered and kept as evidence included several bottles of an Anti-Retroviral Drug regimen commonly used as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, two oral HIV self-testing kits, several condoms in their foil packs and several pieces of condoms that the residents in the shelter had blown up.”