Outbreak of anti-LGBTI attacks in Uganda

A recent upsurge in violence is targeting LGBTI people in Uganda.  The legal aid organization HRAPF (the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum) reported:

HRAPF logo
HRAPF logo

HRAPF notes with concern that there are ongoing homophobic attacks against LGBTI persons. So far, five people have been attacked in a space of six days and beaten badly. All of them are known activists. The motive behind these attacks is still unclear.

As HRAPF we are doing all we can to get to the bottom of this issue. We appeal to the public to refrain from such stigmatisation and discrimination that fuels these attacks. The relevant institutions should take responsibility to address the situation.

HRAPF is doing everything possible to ensure that justice is served and that LGBTI persons in Uganda live in safe conditions.

To the LGBTI community, please keep safe and be vigilant. We stay with you, and we fight with you. Do not hesitate to contact any of our staff members and paralegals in case of anything. Taking human rights to all!!!

SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of Uganda LGBTI organizations) issued this statement, citing even more acts of anti-LGBTI violence and death threats:

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has condemned the seemingly on-the-increase attack on members of the LGBT community in the country.

Dr. Frank Mugisha, SMUG executive director, says, “It seems like the violence towards LGBT Ugandans is on the increase or it never stopped. Five violent attacks have occurred in less than 7 days. I strongly condemn the increasing violence and attacks on LGBT persons ask the Uganda authorities to investigate and hold accountable the perpetrators.”

SMUG program director Pepe Julian Onziema asks the LGBT community to be cautious of the current predicament. He says, “More than ever LGBT-identifying persons should be on the alert 24/7. Avoid walking alone especially in the night and going to LGBT-unfriendly places for their own safety.”

He emphasizes that LGBT persons have the right to dignity and to be protected against violence like any other Ugandan citizen.

Over the past five days in Kampala there have been at least eight Transgender persons affected by violence, received death threats and displacement from their places of residence.

Trans* persons over the past few days while being assaulted were told by their perpetrators, “We are tired of you people. We want you dead.”

Hate comments were made by a police officer: “You are bleeding from being attacked, why do people like you need medication?” She then grabbed a rifle and held it to the face of Jay, a trans man that was attacked on 17th October 2015.

Here are some brief accounts of the past 5 days in Uganda.

  • On the 17th October, SMUG’s administrator Diane Bakuraira was attacked at the gate of her home. Her attackers told her to stop dressing like a man, while repeatedly punching her in the face.
  • On the same day, Jay Mulucha and Apako Williams — known transgender activists — were attacked in the night at a sports bar called Legends, frequented by rugby players and sports fans. Apako and Jay had bottles flung at them, and group of rugby players repeatedly punched them. The bouncers of the bar joined in. Their bleeding bodies were flung against the metal bars at the back of the police van. Instead of arresting the attackers, these known national rugby players were escorted to their cars by the police.
  • Beyonce Karungi was attacked on Sunday night, 18th October at her home. She shares this home with four other trans women. They were all threatened, as the attackers (men) threatened to cut off their testicles. On the 21st October on her way to find a place to stay, Beyonce faced another group of men determined to kill her. She says that while she was being assaulted, the attackers kept saying, “Let’s remove her teeth.”
  • On the 20th October 2015, Joseph, a trans woman, was attacked by a known blackmailer. Sometime back, Joseph was being blackmailed by a man known to her. She filed a case at the police station and the file remains open as investigations continue. She faces repeated violence and threats.

Over the past days, organizations — namely Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), DPI, the MARPS Network, and Iranti-org — have come together to find ways of addressing the immediate crisis and also to find long-term interventions on security of LGBT-identifying persons.

Apako Williams and Jay Mulucha are still being treated like criminals instead of victims of a hate crime. They have to appear at Jinja Road Police Station. To date the perpetrators have not been arrested.

Transgender persons in Uganda fear and distrust the police. Beyonce said. “Going to the police to report a case can just worsen my situation. The police are homo- and transphobic.”

We are currently seeking ways to ensure that the LGBT community is aware that such attacks are on the rise, and that safety is a priority.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.


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