Government Forced Shutdown of SMUG, Ugandan LGBTQI+ Organization

On Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) the government body that regulates NGOs in Uganda, halted the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda for non-registration with the NGO Bureau.


AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION (AHRC) STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH SMUG AND UGANDA'S LGBTQI+ Community, and AHRC is calling for the immediate decriminalization of LGBTQI+ people, under antiquated Penal Codes, and for the full registration of SMUG, a human rights organization whose work is to protect and advocate for Ugandans who identify as LGBTQI+. Until the Colonizers usurped power in Uganda, preaching against fellow Ugandans' freedoms, there were no such Penal Codes. Homophobia came from Europe and America. Not from Africa. If these Penal Codes did not exist then organizations established to help fellow Ugandans navigate issues pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, including the protections of human rights, could legitimately exist and SMUG would continue to do its important work. At this time, due to these criminalizing environments, many Ugandans are forced to flee their homeland for neighboring countries and Occidental countries, seeking protection, asylum and refuge. In fact - crimes are actually committed in the name of these criminalizing laws, by those who believe they have license to exact violence against LGBTQI people or those perceived as such and their allies, to include torture, beatings, rape and killings, all against fellow Ugandans. Included as signatories to this statement are UGANDANS who have been forced to flee their beloved homeland, and fellow LGBTQI refugees, in support, from the East African region, who are similarly victimized by their government and non-state actors. AHRC STATEMENT SIGNED BY: Ibrahim Mukiibi, Refugee and Ambassador for AHRC, Jean Pierre Ndayissengaa, Refugee and Ambassador AHRC representing Francophone Groups, Melanie Nathan (Executive Director AHRC) and Marc Cohen (Director AHRC)


------------------ It should be noted that in 2012, the organization's leadership applied to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) under the Section 18 of the Companies Act, 2012, for the reservation of the name, ‘Sexual Minorities Uganda’ (SMUG) for the proposed organization.


In a letter dated 16th February 2016, the URSB rejected the application to reserve the name ‘Sexual Minorities Uganda’ (SMUG) on the grounds that the name was “undesirable and un-registrable" - and because the "proposed company was to be incorporated to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under sec.145 of the Penal Code Act.”


This decision that was upheld by the High Court of Uganda.

The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are determined to treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as criminals and second-class citizens.


According to leadership of the organization this further compromises efforts to demand better health services and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community in Uganda, notably many having already fled the country to neighboring countries and Occidental countries, seeking protection, refuge and asylum.

“This is a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements that have infiltrated public offices aiming to influence legislation to erase the LGBTQ community.” Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan Gay Activist.

SMUG's CALL TO ACTION 1. We urge the Government of Uganda as a signatory to major international and regional human rights instruments to uphold their obligations to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics. 2. We urge the law enforcement institutions to desist from using the NGO Bureau pronouncement as a tool to witch-hunt, harass, torture, and arbitrarily arrest members of SMUG and the entire LGBTQ community in Uganda, as this has automatically escalated an already hostile environment.

3. Bilateral partners should continue to dialogue with the Government of Uganda on upholding freedom of association and assembly and human rights of all within her boundaries.

4. We also call upon all civil society organizations to strongly speak out and stand in solidarity with SMUG and the entire Ugandan LGBTQ Community.


AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION (AHRC) SUPPORT: WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH SMUG AND UGANDA'S LGBTQI+ Community, calling for the immediate decriminalization of LGBTQI+ people, under antiquated Penal Codes, and for the full registration of SMUG, a human rights organization whose work is to protect and advocate for Ugandans who identify as LGBTQI+. SMUG must be allowed to do its work as in our estimation it serves a large part of the Ugandan community which is minority in need of support and advocacy. This is a basic human rights. This is a basic civil right. This proscribes the basic tenets of freedom and democracy. Until the Colonizers usurped power in Uganda, preaching against fellow Ugandans freedoms, there were no such Penal Codes. Homophobia came from Europe and America. Not from Africa. If these Penal Codes did not exist then organizations established to help fellow Ugandans navigate issues pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, including the protections of human rights, could legitimately exist and SMUG would continue to do its important work. At this time, due to these criminalizing environments, many Ugandans are forced to flee their homeland for neighboring countries and Occidental countries, seeking protection, asylum and refuge. In fact crimes are committed in the name of these criminalizing laws, by those who believe they have license to exact violence to include torture, beatings, rape and killings against fellow Ugandans. Indeed Uganda. Included as signatories to this statement are UGANDANS who have been forced to flee their beloved homeland, and fellow LGBTQI refugees, in support, from the East African region, who are similarly victimized by their government and non-state actors. AHRC STATEMENT SIGNED BY: Ibrahim Mukiibi, Refugee and Ambassador for AHRC, Jean Pierre Ndayissengaa, Refugee and Ambassador AHRC representing Francophone Groups, Melanie Nathan (Executive Director AHRC) and Marc Cohen (Director AHRC)