A human rights organization in Uganda has reported helping secure the release on bond of a man arrested for ‘unnatural offences’.
The charge is often used against gay men in a country known for its harsh anti-gay laws.
The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), based in Kampala, said in a Facebook posting, ‘Yesterday an LGBTI community member was arrested and detained at police in Kasokoso on charges of committing unnatural offences.
‘The HRAPF legal team intervened in the matter and successfully negotiated for his release on bond. We shall continue to follow up the case to respond to any new legal developments that may require our attention.’
GSN has reached out to HRAPF for further details.
African LGBTI activist Denis Nzioka told GSN that the arrest in Kampala was unsurprising. Organisers of Uganda’s small Pride celebrations recently had to cancel the event over safety fears.
‘We have seen a sustained campaign by the Minister of Ethics to curtail the freedoms of, as well as target, those who identify as LGBT.
‘Many other LGBT persons continue to live in hiding out of fear of being outed, or arrested … we have seen an increase in media sensationalism around LGBT topics, as well as some political leaders saying negative things.
‘The past couple of years has seen quite a number of LGBT Ugandans flee their home country out of fear of persecution with many ending up in refugee camps in Kenya where conditions are deplorable.’
The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual activity in Uganda is lifetime imprisonment.
Petter Wallenberg is a Swedish musician who has visited Uganda recently on several occasions in the last couple of years to work with LGBT activists and musicians on the Rainbow Riots music project. In his experience, this arrest was not unusual.
‘Incidents happen all over Uganda, where the police are threatening or arresting people on the suspicion of being LGBTQ. Most cases don’t go to court though as it’s usually impossible to prove anything, but they arrest to intimidate and humiliate. They succeed in creating fear.’
Kowa Tigs, one of the his Rainbow Riot collaborators based in Uganda, told GSN that even if those arrested don’t end up going to court, they can face consequences.
‘Often it is to shame you, harass you and toss you around trying to get information from you … even if they don’t charge you in courts you will get bail with a unnatural offence which will definitely turn the community around you against you. Sometimes your home owner may ask you to leave or evict you, or for your security you may opt out of the area and move to a different community.’
‘Many Ugandan LGBT people have fled to Kenya,’ confirms Tigs. ‘No human being wants to live in fear so some may want to leave the country but many others stay, due to personal challenges, individual commitments, or simply a determination to keep fighting.’