The passage of one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws by Uganda’s government has unleashed a torrent of abuse against LGBTQ people, mostly committed by private individuals, rights groups say.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), enacted in May, prescribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts. At least six people have been charged under it, including two accused of the capital offence of “aggravated homosexuality”.
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But a report, authored by a committee of the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition and made public on Thursday, says the main perpetrators of human rights abuses against LGBTQ people this year – including torture, rape, arrest and eviction – were private individuals.
The report said this pointed to the way the law and the rampant homophobic rhetoric that preceded its passage earlier in the year had radicalised the public against the LGBTQ community.
For example, the report said, mob-aided arrests had become increasingly common “because AHA has put LGBTIQ+ persons on the spot as persons of interest, and the public seems to be the custodians of enforcing the witch hunt”.
Between January 1 and August 31, researchers documented 306 rights violations based on the victims’ sexual orientation and gender identity, with state actors as the perpetrators in 25 of those cases.
By contrast, reports by rights activists in 2020 and 2021 found that state actors were responsible for nearly 70 percent of the rights violations documented in those years. The report did not provide comparative figures for 2022.
The report’s authors said they had documented 18 instances in which the police conducted forced anal examinations of people in their custody to gather “evidence” of homosexuality.
“Surviving a forced anal examination at police [stations] is something that lives with you forever,” it quoted one survivor as saying.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga told Reuters news agency that he had not yet read the report and could not comment.
The report cautioned that its statistics could not be considered exhaustive given the difficulties LGBTQ people face in reporting violations. The climate of fear and intimidation unleashed by the law has also led to rising cases of mental health conditions in the LGBTQ community, including suicidal thoughts, it said.
Since it was enacted in May, the law has drawn widespread condemnation from across the world. In June, the United States imposed travel restrictions on Ugandan officials in response to the legislation and the World Bank announced in August that it was pausing project financing to the country.