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THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 2023 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT FOR UGANDA

BY MELANIE NATHAN, APRIL 22, 2024


The U.S. State Department released the 2023 Human Rights Reports for the Globe on April 22, 2024.


This 2023 year has served as a landmark year, in Africa for a surge in the anti-Homosexuality climate. This report is for Uganda only: Uganda passed The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni. In the lead-up to this new law, we saw a significant rise in discrimination, persecution and violence against LGBTQI+ people in Uganda, and it got even worse after the law became effective. 


NOTE; IN 2024 AND HENCE NOT INCLUDED IN THIS REPORT is the APRIL 2024 Constitutional Court ruling, which will be reported on by the State Department at the same time next year when they release the 2025 Report. In that ruling the Court voided several clauses of the new law, but upheld the major portion of the law, maintaining the extreme and onerous aspects of the law to include the clause providing for the death penalty for so called aggravated homosexuality, which includes repeat/serial offenders. An appeal has been filed in the Ugandan Supreme Court.


These reports are mandated by the U.S. Congress.


The following should be read in context within the entire report, but is EXTRACTED here for quick reference. FULL REPORT:


528267_UGANDA-2023-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT
.pdf
Download PDF • 363KB

EXTRACT FORLGBT RELATED CONTENT:

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2023United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor:


PAGE 26

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Monitoring and Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated under government restrictions, and government officials sometimes declined to cooperate with these groups. Local NGOs advocating for the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons faced restrictions and lack of cooperation by the government.


Retribution against Human Rights Defenders: Human rights defenders (HRDs) reported receiving numerous threats of arrest and death threats from security officials for their work. ….. LGBTQI+ activists reported HRDs working with sexual minorities were at a high risk of harassment from both security officials and private individuals.


The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not cooperate with some UN specialized agencies that monitored human rights.


On February 3, the government notified the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) it would not renew the OHCHR’s mandate in the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated the government had built sufficient human rights monitoring mechanisms, rendering the OHCHR office unnecessary.


Media and human rights activists alleged the government’s decision was in retaliation for the OHCHR’s criticism of the country’s human rights record, especially in relation to reports of extrajudicial killings in the run-up to the 2021 election. The OHCHR closed its local office on August 5.


Government Human Rights Bodies: The U[GANDAN] H[UMAN] R[IGHTS] C[OMMISSION] was a constitutionally mandated institution with quasi-judicial powers authorized to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, direct the release of detainees, and award compensation to abuse victims. The president appointed its board, consisting of a chairperson and five commissioners.

The UHRC pursued suspected human rights abusers, including accused members of the military and police forces. It visited and inspected places of detention and held private conferences with detainees on their conditions in custody. It investigated reports of human rights abuses, reported its annual findings to parliament, and recommended measures to improve the executive branch’s respect of human rights. The government did not always implement UHRC recommendations during the year. The UHRC released its annual report on May 25, but human rights activists criticized the report for ignoring abuse of civil and political rights and rights of the LGBTQI+ community.

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PAGE 29


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalized rape of women, which was punishable by life imprisonment or death, but did not address spousal rape. During the year, the government enacted a law that expressly criminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, proscribing the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which included men raping other men. The government also used a law prohibiting “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” to prosecute men accused of raping men. The law did not address so-called corrective rape of LGBTQI+ persons. The law also criminalized domestic violence and provided up to two years’ imprisonment upon conviction.


Rape and domestic violence were common problems throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. Local media and women rights activists reported numerous incidents of rape, sometimes involving kidnapping and killings of women, but authorities were often unable to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable.


Local media reported perpetrators of rape included persons in positions of authority such as religious leaders, local government officials, police and military officers, health-care workers, and academic staff. Women’s rights activists reported some police officers sexually abused individuals in commercial sex whom they arrested as a precondition for their release. According to local media and human rights activists, many rape survivors lacked faith in government institutions to bring their abusers to justice and declined to report the crime, while others remained silent to avoid stigmatization.


Human rights activists and local media reported that even when women reported cases of rape to police, officers blamed the women for causing the rape by dressing indecently, took bribes from the alleged perpetrators to stop the investigation, pressured survivors into withdrawing the cases, or simply dismissed the accusations and refused to record them. Women’s rights activists reported survivors also declined to report cases or participate in investigations because the process of collecting evidence was intrusive and dehumanizing. Disability rights activists reported women with disabilities, especially blind women, women with mental disabilities, and women living with albinism, were at a disproportionately higher risk for rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Freedom and Roam Uganda reported lesbians and transgender women suffered gender-based violence and “corrective rape” in reported attempts to change their sexuality.

 

Page 34;

LGBTQI+ activists reported LGBTQI+ persons were able to provide informed consent before receiving reproductive health treatment, although many lesbians and bisexual and queer women preferred to access sexual and reproductive health services at LGBTQI+ drop-in centers as they found public health facilities did not cater to their needs. The activists reported some public health officials declined to provide health care, including reproductive health services, to LGBTQI+ persons.


Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics Criminalization: Consensual same-sex sexual conduct was illegal according to a colonial-era law that criminalized “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” Penalties for same-sex sexual conduct (and a multitude of nonsexual activities) were stiffened by the passage and enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) in May, which prescribed the death penalty for serial offenders and life imprisonment for adult first- time offenders (three years for minor offenders).


The law also criminalized “promotion of homosexuality,” required persons to report individuals they suspected of engaging in same-sex relations, and prohibited landlords and property managers from knowingly renting to persons who violated the act. LGBTQI+ activists petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the AHA. The Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution issued a circular to prosecutors instructing them to secure clearance from headquarters before initiating any prosecutions under the AHA; some provisions of the law were enforced.


LGBTQI+ activists reported police arrested numerous individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjected many to forced  anal exams, a medically discredited practice with no evidentiary value that  was considered a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and could amount to torture. LGBTQI+ activists under the umbrella association  Convening for Equality reported 18 instances of forced anal exams by police  between January and August. On August 23, the prosecutor charged a spa  manager in Njeru Magistrate’s Court with homosexuality, promotion of homosexuality, and knowingly allowing her premises to be used for homosexuality, with potential sentences of life in prison, 20 years in prison, and seven years in prison, respectively.


Police arrested the accused after complaints from the spa’s neighbors, who reported the accused featured her workers in same-sex pornography video shoots. On August 22, prosecutors charged Elisha Mukisa, a prominent “ex-gay” activist, and his partner with homosexuality in breach of the AHA. The prosecution stated Mukisa lured his partner into same-sex relations and offered him accommodation in a government-sponsored apartment. Police detained the men and conducted anal exams on both. The court remanded the two to prison.


Page 44

Violence and Harassment: Human rights activists reported numerous instances of state and nonstate actor violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ persons and noted authorities did not adequately investigate the cases. The Strategic Response Team, a coalition of NGOs, reported 306 abuses against LGBTQI+ persons between January and August, with 25 of those abuses conducted by state actors. The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) reported in April a mob in Kampala kidnapped a transgender woman and stripped her naked. The mob forced her to walk through the streets as it hurled projectiles at her and recorded videos. Police arrested her, and the prosecutor charged her with being a public nuisance before court officials released her on bail; the government took no action against the perpetrators in this case. The HRAPF reported that in a limited number of cases police acted against those complicit in violence against LGBTQI+ persons. The HRAPF reported in June police in Kampala arrested an unidentified man after he assaulted a transgender woman.


Discrimination: The law prohibited discrimination based on sex, among other categories, but did not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. Provisions of the AHA discriminated against LGBTQI+ persons, for example by prohibiting landlord or property managers from knowingly renting to persons who might commit violations of the act and requiring all persons, including medical personnel, to report LGBTQI+ persons who might commit violations of the act. The law did not recognize LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families.


LGBTQI+ activists reported LGBTQI+ persons suffered stigma and faced discrimination in access to health care, employment, housing, and other social services, and families disowned LGBTQI+ persons and expelled them from households, which left many homeless and led others to conceal their sexual orientation.


LGBTQI+ activists reported a sharp rise in evictions of LGBTQI+ persons with the introduction of the AHA draft bill. The HRAPF and the Uganda Key Populations Consortium reported responding to 424 cases of eviction and the need for relocation by September.


The HRAPF also reported LGBTQI+ persons were increasingly outed after enactment of the AHA and some were dismissed from their jobs by their employers. In June, the HRAPF reported unidentified individuals outed a lesbian by pinning a written notice to her door and sending one to her employer; she was immediately fired and forced to seek alternative accommodation after her neighbors threatened her.


Page 45

Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition was not available, and the law did not provide the option of identifying as “nonbinary/intersex/gender nonconforming.” Transgender persons could officially change their names, but the law did not provide an option for changing gender markers on official documents.


Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices: LGBTQI+ activists reported LGBTQI+ persons endured intense social pressure to change their sexual orientation. The AHA provided for courts to order persons convicted under its provisions to undergo “rehabilitation,” although the government did not enforce this provision.


Activists reported some families compelled LGBTQI+ children to undergo talk therapy sessions with religious leaders intended to change sexual orientation, compelled LGBTQI+ children to “denounce” their sexual orientation and gender identity in religious gatherings, or compelled their LGBTQI+ children into forced marriages in an attempt to change their sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ activists reported some public health workers attempted to compel LGBTQI+ persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression before providing health services.


The Ministry of Health released two circulars instructing public health workers “not to deny services to any client who presents themselves for services,” and “not to discriminate or stigmatize any individual who seeks healthcare for any reason – gender, religion, tribe, economic or social status or sexual orientation.” Some government officials openly encouraged attempts to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQI+ persons.


There were no reports of surgeries performed on non-consenting adult intersex persons.


Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly:

The government restricted LGBTQI+ organizations’ ability to legally register and operate. The AHA prohibited operation “of an organization which promotes or encourages homosexuality or the observance or normalization” of the same. Prior to the AHA, authorities used provisions of the law to restrict or deny the registration of LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations due to allegations the proposed names of the organizations were “undesirable” and their activities unlawful.


The NGO Bureau maintained its 2022 suspension of NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), citing SMUG’s failure to incorporate at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau and to register with the NGO Bureau, despite the courts’ longstanding failure to address SMUG’s appeal of those two bodies’ refusals to incorporate or to register the nonprofit organization. LGBTQI+ activists reported police often failed to investigate attacks on LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations and in September unknown individuals attacked the premises of Trans Network Uganda, set it on fire, and stole official documents. Police told LGBTQI+ activists it was investigating the incident. LGBTQI+ activists reported the NGO Bureau carried out a disproportionately higher volume of inspections on offices of LGBTQI+ organizations, during which some NGO Bureau staff threatened to shut down the organizations.  (page 56)


THE ABOVE EXTRACT IN PDF FORM:


LGBT SPECIFIC ASPECTS Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2023
.pdf
Download PDF • 74KB

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NOTE; AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION (AHRC) PARTICIPATED IN OVER 36 RELOCATIONS IN 2023, OF LGBTQI UGANDANS, PROVIDING TRANSPORT, MEDICAL AID, GENERAL HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE, SAFE SHELTERS, FOOD PROGRAMS AND ADVOCACY FOR LGBTQI PEOPLE FORCIBLY DISPLACED BY THESE AND SIMILAR LAWS AND RESULTING PERSECUTION, DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE.


NOTE MELANIE NATHAN, ED OF AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION PROVIDES COUNTRY CONDITIONS EXPERT WITNESS TESTIMONY FOR LGBTI ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM UGANDA AND OTHER COUNTRIES


STAY TUNED FOR GHANA AND OTHER COUNTRIES.


DONATIONS TO OUR WORK HERE.



 

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