Since the passage of one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws, Uganda has experienced a surge in human rights abuses against LGBTQ individuals.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, enacted in May, has created a climate of fear and unleashed a torrent of abuse, mostly carried out by private individuals. Rights groups are sounding the alarm about the dire consequences of this legislation and calling for urgent action to protect the rights and safety of LGBTQ people in Uganda.
The AHA is notorious for prescribing the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, a punishment that has shocked the international community. While some may argue that the law is intended to uphold cultural and religious values, it has become a tool for violence and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
At least six people in Uganda have already been charged under the AHA, with two accused of the capital offense of “aggravated homosexuality”. These alarming cases illustrate the harmful impact of the law on the lives of LGBTQ people.
However, it is not only the state that is responsible for the rights abuses unleashed by this law. A recent report by the Convening for Equality coalition reveals that the main perpetrators of these abuses are private individuals.
The report highlights that the law and the homophobic rhetoric that preceded its passage have radicalized the public against the LGBTQ community. This has contributed to a rise in mob-aided arrests, where individuals take the law into their own hands, targeting LGBTQ people as “persons of interest”. The report states that the public has become the self-appointed custodians of enforcing a witch hunt against the LGBTQ community.
The report further documents a shocking number of rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Between January 1 and August 31, researchers identified 306 cases of abuse, including torture, rape, arrest, and eviction. State actors were responsible for perpetuating these violations in 25 instances. These figures reflect a worrying trend and highlight the urgent need for action to address the human rights crisis facing the LGBTQ community in Uganda.
According to the report’s authors, there have been 18 documented cases of police conducting forced anal examinations on individuals in their custody in an attempt to gather evidence of homosexuality.
The impact of surviving such a violation is long-lasting, as one survivor quoted in the report expressed. Police spokesperson Fred Enanga stated that he had not yet read the report and couldn’t provide any comments.
It should be noted that the statistics presented in the report may not capture the full extent of violations due to the challenges LGBTQ individuals face when reporting such incidents. Additionally, the oppressive climate created by this law has resulted in an increase in mental health issues within the LGBTQ community, including suicidal thoughts.
Since its implementation in May, this law has been met with condemnation worldwide. In response to this legislation, the United States imposed travel restrictions on Ugandan officials in June. Furthermore, in August, the World Bank announced a pause on project financing for Uganda.