Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) writes about the publication of a new report on the ways in which Uganda has become a harsher place to live since the passage in February of anti-gay legislation that was endorsed by the Anglican Church of Uganda:
Simple activities such as renting a property to an LGBTI person, running an organization that promotes the health or human rights of LGBTI people or showing any form of intimacy toward someone of the same sex could now be characterized as serious crimes. Under the Act, two people of the same sex purporting to marry one another commit an offense that carries a life sentence.
The 162 cases that we have collated and substantiated to the best of our ability probably represent only the tip of the iceberg. Most incidents of harassment or intimidation, for example, are not reported, and there may have been other serious cases that we have not been alerted to or have been unable to verify. Even so, our report shows that there has been a staggering increase in persecution. Nineteen cases were reported in 2012, and only eight in 2013. The 162 cases reported since Dec. 20, 2013, therefore represent an increase in persecution of up to 19 times compared with previous years, an increase that can only be laid at the door of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and the virulently homophobic atmosphere it has engendered in Uganda. ….
By far the most frequent story to emerge from the report involves someone being thrown out of or asked to leave their home, often by their own family. It’s hardly surprising, because knowingly allowing a gay person to live on your property and failing to report them to the police could now be a criminal offense. As the story referred to above shows, homosexuality has become a reason to evict someone whether or not an actual offense has been committed under the Act.
Most worrying is the number of cases reported that involve either the threat of violence or actual physical attacks. Perhaps the greatest fear is of mob violence. According to SMUG’s report, one man survived a lynching by a mob of youths only to find himself arrested and detained by the police. Since then, we have lost contact with him. The same report describes how a woman, after being attacked by a mob and having her house burned down, was also arrested. Random threats of violence are becoming commonplace. An increase in suicides and attempted suicides since the passing of the Act has been noted, particularly among the young. One 17-year-old boy was reported to have swallowed rat poison in April of this year.
The Anglican Church in North America, led by Archbishop Robert Duncan, has refused numerous invitations to speak out publicly against this bill, fearing to alienate its allies in the Anglican Church of Uganda.