Friday, June 22, 2012

Uganda: Government targets NGOs in escalation of assault on LGBT rights

Source: IFEX

(Freedom House/IFEX) - June 20, 2012 - Freedom House strongly condemns Uganda's targeting of civil society in a new and disturbing tactic in the country's ongoing assault on LGBT rights. In a plan announced today, the government will revoke the registrations of 38 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) it accuses of promoting homosexuality, effectively banning them from operating in the country. The plan was announced by Uganda's ethics minister, Simon Lokodo, who claims that the NGOs channel foreign funds to support gays and lesbians who recruit children into homosexuality. The move will only intensify international condemnations against Uganda's statutory intolerance and violation of human rights, and should be immediately withdrawn.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, and the country's parliament has repeatedly proposed legislation to harshly persecute the LGBT community. In February 2012 a legislator reintroduced an anti-gay bill that would enforce the death penalty or life imprisonment against homosexuals in some circumstances, but strong international outcry has made it more likely that those provisions will be dropped in future drafts. The version currently under deliberation would enforce strict penalties for "promotion" of homosexuality, broadly defined to include financial support for homosexual individuals.

Harassment and repression of LGBT groups continues to escalate in severity. On June 18, 2012, police forces raided a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex (LGBTI) workshop in the capital city of Kampala, arbitrarily detaining around 20 human rights defenders, as well as other hotel guests and staff at the venue. Several participants were arrested and intimidated by police. Another LGBTI workshop was similarly shut down by Lokodo and his forces four months earlier.

Uganda, under the powerful rule of President Yoweri Museveni for over 26 years, is rated Partly Free in Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2012 survey, and is trending downward due to poor conduct of national elections and violent crackdowns on protesters and journalists.