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HomeGlobal NewsUganda's LGBTQIA+ community lives in fear – DW – 08/14/2023

Uganda’s LGBTQIA+ community lives in fear – DW – 08/14/2023

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Holding hands with the person you love and share a life with can get you thrown into jail in Uganda. Even penning this article would carry a penalty in Uganda, as journalists also face imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting or distributing any content that might be deemed to advocate the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. 

This is the nature of the far-reaching, draconian  “anti-gay law”, which Uganda enacted in late May. 

The most immediate victims of the law are gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans individuals in Uganda, who now feel even more persecuted in their own country.

DW spoke to several members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Uganda on the condition of anonymity. They all said they have had to go into hiding, with one saying he already felt like a refugee:

“Is it a crime to embrace my identity? I am even scared for my life like a refugee. I am scared for my life, and I am scared for my friends. I am scared for my family,” he told DW.

Meanwhile, a lesbian in Uganda said: “We are now just going to ask for asylum and leave the country because now it seems like everyone is against us. If the president has signed we have to look for asylum in countries which will allow us.”

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Another gay man, Francis, said he would probably “flee for safety elsewhere as it remains a tall order to have LGBTQIA+ rights fully accepted in Africa.”

As is the case in many other countries where there are severe punishments against same-sex relations, many members of Uganda’s LGBTQIA+ community like Francis are likely going to seek to start a new life elsewhere.

Others, however, cannot imagine leaving their country even against the backdrop of homophobia being encouraged on all levels by the law: In 2014, gay rights activist Kelly Mukwano had to be hospitalized after being attacked for his sexuality.

However, he told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper at the time that he “cannot leave this country.”

“It is my home and still I love it. But I worry now that I cannot be a Ugandan, and a gay man, and survive.”

Western countries ice out Uganda

The enactment of thelaw against homosexuality in Uganda attracted condemnation around the globe — from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to US President Joe Biden.

The White House commented that the move was “shameful,” highlighting also in particular that it “jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.”

In June, the US imposed travel restrictions on Ugandan officials in response to the legislation.

Just recently, the World Bank said it would suspend further lending and budget support to Uganda, citing human rights concerns.

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According to the bank, no new public financing to Uganda will be presented to their Board of Executive Directors until authorities there provide adequate policy to protect minority groups, including homosexuals.

According to the World Bank’s Global Income Classification, Uganda is classified as a low-income country and gets approximately U$115 billion annually in development grants.

Some of the affected projects will include the Uganda Social Action fund which was designed to tackle poverty and development ventures in Eastern Uganda covering over 50 districts.

The governments of the US, the UK and Germany have announced they will assess imposing sanctions on Uganda, including the freezing of foreign accounts, which effectively would plunge one of the poorest countries in the world deeper into crisis.

Questionable constitutional grounds

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni took several months to sign the new act into law, possibly taking into consideration the repercussions that the African nation might suffer.

However, same-sex relationships were already illegal in Uganda even before the new law was passed with the support of 341 out of 389 members of parliament earlier this year.

Yoweri Musevini to sign anti-LGBT law
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-LGBT law in MayImage: ABUBAKER LUBOWA/REUTERS

In fact, Uganda passed a similar law criminalizing same-sex relationships in 2013, dubbed the “Kill the Gay Act.” However, one year later, Uganda’s Constitutional Court rejected the law on a technicality.

There may be legal challenges to the 2023 Act as well. Ugandan human rights lawyer Adrian Jjuuko said the law was clearly unconstitutional, as it violates Ugandan’s right to dignity “under article 24 of the constitution.”

“By criminalizing what we call consensual same-sex activity among adults [it] basically goes against key provisions of the constitution, including violating the rights to equality and non-discrimination under article 20 and 21 of the constitution,” he added.

The UN also believes that the new law needs “urgent” review.

Uganda führt drakonisches Anti-Schwulengesetz ein
Uganda’s parliament deliberated the tough new penalties for same-sex relations during a sitting in parliament Image: Abubaker Lubowa/REUTERS

No protection guarantee in EU

Meanwhile, in the European Union, sexual orientation is not a guarantee for succeeding with an asylum application.

Most general asylum applications from Uganda are typically rejected, according to figures from Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) — however, it is unclear to what extent this changes in cases where someone’s sexual orientation means that they would suffer persecution in Uganda, as BAMF does not collect statistical information on sexuality.

Some people seeking asylum from other African countries on grounds of sexuality have previously been rejected by Germany.

Even the application process for protection in the EU might be an uphill battle for many LGBTQIA+ individuals from Uganda.

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Calls for more action

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, meanwhile has appealed for better protections to be given to people fleeing persecution on account of identifying as being LGBTQIA+.

Uganda is far from alone in criminalizing homosexuality around the world. 66 countries around the world have laws against consensual, same-sex sexual activity.

Capital punishment, meanwhile, remains on the books against same-sex relations in 11 countries: Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the UAE, and Yemen.

This article was originally published on InfoMigrants

Additional reporting by Okeri Ngutjinazo

 

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