Ugandan authorities have banned a renowned LGBTQ rights organization.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) has been forced to close with “immediate effect”.
The advocacy organization slammed the move as a “clear witch hunt” targeting LGBT Ugandans.
Ugandan authorities have banned a renowned LGBTQ rights organization, a big blow for the country’s LGBTQ community.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) has been forced to close with “immediate effect” for failing to properly register with authorities.
The advocacy organization slammed the move as the government’s “clear witch hunt” targeting LGBT Ugandans.
In Uganda, where anti-gay and transphobic sentiments are prevalent, sexual minorities experience widespread persecution.
Gay relationships are banned in Uganda, where they may result in jail sentences of up to life for committing “unnatural offences.”
According to official police statistics, 194 persons were charged with the offence between 2017 and 2020, with 25 convicted.
“This is a clear witch hunt rooted in systematic homophobia, fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements,” said Smug’s director, homosexual Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha.
He accused authorities of treating Uganda’s LGBT minority as second-class citizens and attempting to utterly obliterate their existence.
Ugandan authorities said on Friday that Smug’s activities will be halted because the advocacy organization, created in 2004, had failed to properly register its name with the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
It is the same justification provided last year when Ugandan authorities banned dozens of civil society organizations, including pro-democracy organizations.
This time, authorities claim that the problem arises from the term Smug – Sexual Minorities Uganda.
The NGO Bureau stated in a statement that Smug sought to register with authorities in 2012, but that the application was denied because Smug’s entire name was deemed “undesirable.”
President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in charge since 1986, has previously made homophobic remarks, including calling homosexual people “disgusting” in a CNN interview in 2016.
Although there are no laws in Uganda that directly criminalize being transgender, trans persons are often punished for various offences such as “personation” (false representation), according to reports collected by rights organizations.
Smug has advocated for the rights of LGBT persons in Uganda since its inception over two decades ago, advocating access to health care and assisting members of the LGBT community in living openly.
It has also taken legal action to defend homosexual people from discrimination, including successfully petitioning a Ugandan court in 2010 to force a publication to cease publishing the names and images of gay Ugandan men with the banner “hang them.”
The organization said that as a consequence of the story, some of its members had been assaulted or harassed, including one lady who was almost murdered when her neighbors started hurling stones at her home.
Ugandan officials were set to discuss whether or not to implement the death sentence for same-sex partnerships at the time, a legislative measure that drew enormous worldwide outrage before being shelved.
Smug has lately spoken out against anti-gay statements given by Ugandan politicians, notably in the run-up to national elections in 2021.
“The politicians are using the LGBT community as a scapegoat to gain support and win votes and it is fueling homophobia,” Smug’s director Frank Mugisha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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