Surge in human rights violations in Uganda blamed on anti-gay law

The deliberation and enactment of one of the world’s most severe anti-gay laws by Uganda’s government have triggered a wave of abuse against LGBTQ individuals, primarily perpetrated by private individuals, according to rights groups on Thursday.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), which was passed in May, imposes the death penalty for specific same-sex activities. To date, at least six individuals have faced charges under this law, with two of them accused of the capital offence of “aggravated homosexuality.”

However, the report, produced by a committee within the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition, indicates that the primary culprits responsible for human rights violations against LGBTQ individuals this year, which encompass torture, rape, arrests, and evictions, are private individuals.

The report emphasised that this situation underscores how the law and the widespread homophobic rhetoric that preceded its enactment earlier in the year have radicalised the public against the LGBTQ community.

The report cited an increase in mob-assisted arrests, stating that such incidents have become more common because the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) has singled out LGBTQ+ individuals as persons of interest, and the public appears to take it upon themselves to enforce this witch hunt.

Between January 1 and August 31, researchers recorded 306 violations of rights based on the victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity, with state actors responsible for 25 of those cases.

In contrast, reports from rights activists in 2020 and 2021 indicated that state actors were responsible for nearly 70% of the documented rights violations in those years. The report, however, did not provide comparative figures for 2022.

The report’s authors documented 18 instances in which the police conducted forced anal examinations of individuals in their custody to collect so-called “evidence” of homosexuality.

“Surviving a forced anal examination at police is something that lives with you forever,” it quoted one survivor as saying.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga stated that he had not yet reviewed the report and was unable to provide any comments at this time.

The report cautioned that its statistics may not be exhaustive due to the challenges LGBTQ individuals encounter when reporting violations.

The climate of fear and intimidation resulting from the law has also contributed to a surge in mental health conditions within the LGBTQ community, including an increase in suicidal thoughts, the report noted.

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