Uganda:16 LGBT activists released then condemn forced anal exams

Human rights defenders in Uganda want all charges dropped against 16 LGBT+ activists released Thursday on police bond in Kampala after six days in detention. They were charged with carnal knowledge against the order of nature (homosexuality) and human trafficking.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


Members of Let’s Walk Uganda during one of their HIV/AIDS sensitisation meetings at their office, which was raided by a mob Friday of last week. Photo Courtesy of Lets Walk Uganda

By Kikonyogo Kivumbi

In a press statement issued October 24 in Kampala, the activists said that they also want Uganda’s Police Chief, Martin Okoth Ochola, to “publicly condemn the brutal attacks against LGBT Ugandans.”

This follows the arrest of the 16 activists from their office in Kyengera, about an hour’s drive from Uganda’s Capital City, Kampala. A mob raided the office of the activists on Friday evening, October 18. The occupants of the office called on police for protection. At the time, police indicated that the activists would be given protective custody from the mob as discussed  earlier on Erasing 76 Crimes.

However,  while at the police station, police instead placed them under arrest on charges of carnal knowledge against order of nature and human trafficking. The activists were later subjected to forced anal examinations, despite protests by the LGBT+ community.

Police have stated that the presence of condoms, lubricant, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in their homes is “evidence” that supports the charge of having gay sex. Using HIV prevention tools as evidence that a person has committed sex acts that are criminalized under the Penal Code has been criticized by the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng. Also, the former IGP, Kale Kayihura, had criticized the use of forced anal exams, the Press Statement reads in parts.

The statement further adds: “Government is not only failing to protect us—they are also violating our rights as Ugandans with sham criminal charges designed to silence us and forced anal exams to humiliate and torture us,” said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). “Our communities are demanding that the charges against these 16 defendants be immediately dropped.”

“We are repulsed by the homophobia in our society—in particular among police who routinely and disdainfully violate our right to associate and assemble peacefully as a community,” said Clare Byarugaba, Equality and Non-Discrimination Coordinator at Chapter Four Uganda. “Enough is enough.”

Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP, said, “As long as such vile, violent homophobia is condoned by government, policy moves such as the recently launched Uganda Presidential Fast Track Initiative on HIV are worse than window dressing–they are cynical attempts to distract Ugandans and international donors with the illusion that Government is committed to delivering health services to criminalized communities such as LGBT Ugandans.”

Two cabinet minister on Friday evening issued public statements condemning the attacks on LGBT+ community in Uganda as discussed on Erasing 76 Crimes.

IGP Martin Okoth Ochola (right) and his deputy, Brig. Sabiiti Muzeei (left)-. Photo Courtesy of Kampala Dispatch

Here is the press statement in full:

Press Statement 

For Immediate Release: October 24 2019  

Civil Society Groups Demand Sham Charges Against 16 LGBT Ugandans be Dropped 

Escalating Violence Against LGBT Ugandans Must be Condemned by the Government of Uganda  

(Kampala) Civil society groups in Uganda called on the Government and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to publicly condemn the brutal attacks against LGBT Ugandans, which have been escalating in number, following the most recent case where 16 LGBT Ugandans were threatened by a mob in Kyengera, a neighborhood in Kampala, on October 21.

After the threat of mob violence, they were initially promised “protection” by police, but were then arrested, detained and subjected to forced anal examinations–an act of torture that is designed to humiliate and terrify under the guise of collecting “proof of homosexuality.” Forced anal exams have been denounced by medical authorities around the world. They have since been charged with carnal knowledge against the order of nature under Article 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, as well as with human trafficking. Police have stated that the presence of condoms, lubricant, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in their homes is “evidence” that supports the charge of having gay sex. Using HIV prevention tools as evidence that a person has committed sex acts that are criminalized under the Penal Code has been criticized by the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng. Also, the former IGP, Kale Kayihura, had criticized the use of forced anal exams.

Activists expressed alarm that this flagrant violation of human rights of LGBT people by police and the willingness to jeopardize the HIV response could signal a new, more regressive policy shift by Government

“Government is not only failing to protect us—they are also violating our rights as Ugandans with sham criminal charges designed to silence us and forced anal exams to humiliate and torture us,” said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). “Our communities are demanding that the charges against these 16 defendants be immediately dropped.”

“We are repulsed by the homophobia in our society—in particular among police who routinely and disdainfully violate our right to associate and assemble peacefully as a community,” said Clare Byarugaba, Equality and Non-Discrimination Coordinator at Chapter Four Uganda. “Enough is enough.”

This attack comes after multiple reported cases of violence including the brutal beating of an lesbian identified woman (by a doctor who is a licensed member of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council), and a mob attack on a Rwandan refugee, as well as 4 reported cases of murder motivated by homophobia and transphobia. The response of the IGP to these and other attacks has been grossly inadequate—victims and witnesses have reported the crimes to police and have provided evidence but police follow up has been minimal.

“As long as such vile, violent homophobia is condoned by government, policy moves such as the recently launched Uganda Presidential Fast Track Initiative on HIV are worse than window dressing–they are cynical attempts to distract Ugandans and international donors with the illusion that Government is committed to delivering health services to criminalized communities such as LGBT Ugandans,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP.

For more information contact:

Frank Mugisha, SMUG, +256 772 616 062

Clare Byarugaba, Chapter Four Uganda, +256 774 068 663

Asia Russell, Health GAP: +256 776 574 729, asia@healthgap.org

Written by Kikonyogo Kivumbi

Kikonyogo Kivumbi is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. Contact him at uhspauganda@gmail.com.

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