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Uganda is on a new LGBTQ witch hunt again

Another high profile attack on the brave UGANDA LGBTQ community was recorded last week when Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMIG) had to shut down.

sexualmanoritiesuganda.com can not be reached. Behind this domain is an organization by the name: Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)

Is Uganda still safe for LGBTQ visitors?

This brave organization was determined to the impossible task of assisting the LGBTQ community in Uganda. This community has been under attack since 1902 when homosexuality was criminalized under British rule.

In addition to the British, an American anti-gay activist and religious extremist convinced leaders in Kampala to go more brutal against its LGBTQ communities.

In 2014 in Springfield, MA, USA (SMUG), represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel, appeared in court to argue that a federal lawsuit against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively must go to trial. Twelve members of SMUG traveled from Uganda for the argument, and one activist came from Latvia, where Lively has also worked to deprive the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community of their fundamental rights.

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Scott Douglas Lively (born December 14, 1957) is an American activist, author, attorney, and the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, an anti-LGBT group based in Temecula, California. He was also a co-founder of Latvia-based group Watchmen on the Walls, state director of the California branch of the American Family Association, and a spokesman for the Oregon Citizens Alliance. He unsuccessfully attempted to be elected as the governor of Massachusetts in both 2014 and 2018.

He wrote a book claiming gay people were prominent in the Nazi Party and were behind Nazi atrocities. He has called for the criminalization of “the public advocacy of homosexuality” as far back as 2007. Widely credited as an engineer of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, he gave a series of talks to Ugandan lawmakers before drafting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

On August 3, 2022, the Ugandan government ordered SMUG to shut down immediately.

SMUG posted this farewell statement to its Twitter account the same day, saying:

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

It should be noted that in 2012, Frank Mugusha and others applied to the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) under Section 18 of the Companies Act, 2012 for the reservation of the name of the proposed company. In a letter dated 16th February 2016, the URSB rejected the application to reserve the name “Sexual Minorities Uganda” on the grounds that the name was “undesirable and un-registrable that the proposed company to be incorporated to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer persons, which persons are in engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under sec.145 of the Penal Code Act. A decision was upheld by the High Court of Uganda.

The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operation that seeks 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 adamant and treating Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens. These further compromise efforts to demand better health service and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community.

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

Call to action

  1. We urge the Government of Uganda as a signatory of major international and regional human rights instruments, to uphold its obligation to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.
  2. We urge 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 for 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.

On March 7, 2014 the previous CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, Stephen Asiimwe was keen to invite CNN anchor Richard Quest to Uganda. At a media event at the ITB Travel and Tourism trade show in Berlin, he asked this writer to introduce him to Richard. Richard Quest, a gay man, was reluctant to meet Stephen but agreed.

This conversation resulted in the Uganda CEO openly telling the eTurboNews publisher Juergen Steinmetz, that Uganda is welcoming gay tourists to its East African country with open arms.

This was published on March 7, 2014, in eTurboNews and received an enormous response.

According to Mr. Asiimwe, “no gay visitor to our country will be harassed or not welcome for the only reason that he or she may be gay. Cultural policies are important in Uganda. We ask visitors to respect them. They include touching in public, for example, or engaging in sex with children.”

Two years later, on August 7, 2016, eTurboNews reported a brutal raid by Uganda police on a night venue frequented by visitors and LGBTQ Ugandans.

It prompted US ambassador Deborah R. Malac to issue a statement condemning police brutality against the LGBT community The crackdown was directed against the LGBT community. Several people were reported wounded.

The U.S. ambassador posted on the US Embassy homepage: I was dismayed to hear the accounts of a police raid last night on a peaceful event in Kampala to celebrate Uganda Pride Week and recognize the talents and contributions of the country’s LGBTI community. The fact that police reportedly beat and assaulted Ugandan citizens engaged in peaceful activities is unacceptable and deeply troubling.

In 2019 US Democratic presidential candidate at that time and former US Vice President Joe Biden told CNN viewers if he was elected president, he would open a US State Department section to sanction countries for violating human rights for LGBT people anywhere in the world.

This was the response to the effort in Uganda to make LGBTQ sexual activities a capital offense again.

Uganda-based Kabiza Wilderness Safari says Uganda remains a safe destination for LGBTQ travelers. The company explains on its website that such guarantees are in place by the Uganda Ministry of Tourism and the Uganda Tourism Board.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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