A surge in attacks on LGBTQ+ people in Uganda has been recorded by rights groups this year.
More than 110 people reported incidents including arrests, sexual violence, evictions and public undressing, to advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) in February alone. Transgender people were disproportionately affected, said the group.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” said Frank Mugisha, director of Smug. “It is part of a deliberate, calculated, very systematic move by groups within government, parliament and the conservative evangelicals trying to erase the LGBTQ+ community.”
Smug said it had received reports of people having to flee their homes to avoid arrest by police tipped off by the public. Attacks have taken place at private events, parties and football games. A teacher at a girls’ school in Jinja, east of the capital, was arrested over allegations of “promoting homosexuality” at the school, amid suspicion she was a lesbian. Three trans women were arrested at their homes in the capital, Kampala, last month, and charged with committing “unnatural offences” and subjected to anal examinations.
“It’s a madhouse,” said Mugisha, adding that his organisation is overwhelmed by the numbers who need help. “Things have escalated to the worst. Before, there was fear from law enforcement but not fear from communities, from ordinary Ugandans like we are seeing now.”
Ugandan MPs reintroduced an anti-homosexuality bill, which would punish gay sex and “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. Religious groups in Uganda have been vocal in their persecution of homosexuality. Activists say that laws which indirectly criminalise trans people, such as impersonation and public indecency, or those that criminalise same-sex relations, add intense scrutiny.
Mukisa, a transgender and a former nurse, says, “People are living in fear and in hiding. “This whole situation is setting us back.”