Uganda Anti-Gay Law Spurring Abuses, Rights Defenders Say

On May 15, 2014 UgandaBloomberg reported: A Ugandan law toughening punishments for gay sex has subjected homosexuals to “violence and harassment” and spurred people to go into hiding or flee the country to avoid arrest, according to two human rights groups.

President Yoweri Museveni in February approved anti-gay legislation that includes life sentences for some homosexual acts. It was condemned by foreign governments including Norway, Denmark and Sweden, which are redirecting or withholding aid, while U.S. President Barack Obama said the legislation is a “serious setback” to the gay-rights movement worldwide. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says he won’t be pressured from outside to repeal a law that reflects his country’s values.

Gays and lesbians have been facing a rising tide of discrimination since the bill’s passage, with a surge of human rights violations reported including arbitrary arrests, police abuse, extortion, job losses and evictions, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today in a joint statement.

Since lawmakers approved the bill in December, at least 17 adults have been arrested on allegations of consensual same-sex conduct or on suspicion of being gay or lesbian, the rights groups said.

Extortion, Arrest

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act is creating homelessness and joblessness, restricting life-saving HIV work, and bloating the pockets of corrupt police officers who extort money from victims of arrest,” said Neela Ghoshal, a Nairobi-based senior rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, according to the statement. “Repealing this law is imperative to ensure Ugandans can live without fear of violence and harassment.”

Of more than 100 homosexuals who have left the country since the start of this year, about 87 people have claimed asylum in neighboring Kenya, they said, citing information from the United Nations Refugee Agency. The murder of a transgender individual after the legislation was enacted was probably a “hate crime,” according to the statement.

The law has also restricted access to HIV/AIDS programs, the groups said. Uganda police raided the U.S.-funded Walter Reed Project, which offers AIDS research and treatment services among other programs, in the capital, Kampala, in April, causing the organization to stop taking drop-in clients, they said. Another HIV/AIDS outreach program has suspended clinics.  Continued

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