Campaigners have slammed the Ugandan minister who raided a gay activist conference in Entebbe on Tuesday (14 February), saying his actions were illegal and unconstitutional.
The Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, broke into the meeting organized by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an association that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships, and ordered the activists out of the hotel where it was being held.
He was accompanied by police and told the participants, 'I have closed this conference because it's illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home.'
Executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha, has condemned Lokodo's 'abuse of office'.
He said: 'Closing our workshop today totally violates our constitutional rights and this intimidation will not stop us from fighting, for equal treatment of all Ugandan citizens.'
Lokodo also attempted to order the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, a prominent LGBT rights activist who was forced to flee from the hotel.
The reasons for the attempted arrest were not immediately clear, but were reported to be linked to Kasha Jacqueline’s attempt to challenge the minister’s actions.
The raid comes days after the so-called 'kill the gays' bill was re-tabled in the Ugandan Parliament.
The anti-homosexuality bill includes the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and harsh prison terms for gay and lesbian sex.
Under the bill ‘aggravated homosexuality’ includes sex by a person who is HIV positive, is a parent, authority figure, or who administers intoxicating substances. Sex involving minors and the disabled is also ‘aggravated’ and repeat ‘offenders’ would get the death penalty too.
Other same-sex acts, and involvement in a lesbian or gay marriage would attract life imprisonment. And Ugandans may be extradited back home by the authorities, even if they have same-sex relations outside of the country.
There are also penalties in the bill for people, media, organisations or companies who don’t report gay people they know or support LGBT rights. The intention is to prevent any kind of gay liberation movement in the country.
Although homosexuality is illegal under the penal code in Uganda, public assembly of gay people is not a crime. But this would change if the bill is signed into law.
Bisi Alimi, The Kaleidoscope Trust's regional spokesman for Africa, said: 'It’s alarming and disappointing that Uganda’s parliament will once again consider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
'If passed, it would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.'
The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has also waded into the debate, warning the bill would violate international human rights law and lead to further repression.
James Mukasa Sebugenyi, society president, said the ULS are in no way promoting homosexuality, but are calling for the protection of Ugandan citizens' basic human rights.
In a statement, he said: 'We reckon that the spirit of the bill is for noble and moral intentions, such as to protect the traditional family, children, youth and cherished cultural values among others.
'It should, however, be alive to the fact that we live in a multi-lateral society comprised of various rights, interests and freedoms and should either be tolerated, restricted but not criminalized or banished.'