(Kampala) Civil society groups in Uganda called on the Government and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to publicly condemn the brutal attacks against LGBT Ugandans, which have been escalating in number, following the most recent case where 16 LGBT Ugandans were threatened by a mob in Kyengera, a neighborhood in Kampala, on October 21.
After the threat of mob violence, they were initially promised “protection” by police, but were then arrested, detained and subjected to forced anal examinations–an act of torture that is designed to humiliate and terrify under the guise of collecting “proof of homosexuality.” Forced anal exams have been denounced by medical authorities around the world. They have since been charged with carnal knowledge against the order of nature under Article 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, as well as with human trafficking. Police have stated that the presence of condoms, lubricant, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in their homes is “evidence” that supports the charge of having gay sex. Using HIV prevention tools as evidence that a person has committed sex acts that are criminalized under the Penal Code has been criticized by the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng. Also, the former IGP, Kale Kayihura, had criticized the use of forced anal exams.
Activists expressed alarm that this flagrant violation of human rights of LGBT people by police and the willingness to jeopardize the HIV response could signal a new, more regressive policy shift by Government
“Government is not only failing to protect us—they are also violating our rights as Ugandans with sham criminal charges designed to silence us and forced anal exams to humiliate and torture us,” said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). “Our communities are demanding that the charges against these 16 defendants be immediately dropped.”
“We are repulsed by the homophobia in our society—in particular among police who routinely and disdainfully violate our right to associate and assemble peacefully as a community,” said Clare Byarugaba, Equality and Non-Discrimination Coordinator at Chapter Four Uganda. “Enough is enough.”
This attack comes after multiple reported cases of violence including the brutal beating of a lesbian-identified woman (by a doctor who is a licensed member of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council), and a mob attack on a Rwandan refugee, as well as 4 reported cases of murder motivated by homophobia and transphobia. The response of the IGP to these and other attacks has been grossly inadequate—victims and witnesses have reported the crimes to police and have provided evidence but police follow up has been minimal.
“As long as such vile, violent homophobia is condoned by government, policy moves such as the recently launched Uganda Presidential Fast Track Initiative on HIV are worse than window dressing–they are cynical attempts to distract Ugandans and international donors with the illusion that Government is committed to delivering health services to criminalized communities such as LGBT Ugandans,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP.
Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life-saving medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life-sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.