Ugandan Government Minister Promises Program To “Rehabilitate the Members of LGBTI Community”

Jim Burroway

August 9th, 2016

Yesterday, Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo appeared before journalists and read a statement following last week’s police raid on a Mr/Ms/Mx Pageant that was being held as part of Uganda Pride celebrations. The U.S. Ambassador to Uganda has condemned last week’s raid, as did a coalition of Ugandan LGBT and human rights organizations.

The law is clear that the promotion of LGBT activities is criminal in letter and intent, and offensive to the laws of the Republic of Uganda. I therefore, call upon all stakeholders, ministries, departments, agencies, local governments, faith-based organizations, civil society organizations, the media, the families , the communities join the government to curb the escalating levels of immorality by upholding and integrating the national ethical values of Uganda into their daily life and work.

A program to rehabilitate the members of LGBTI community with the ultimate aim of giving them a chance to live normal lives again has been developed in my office. And Government remains committed to ensuring that Ugandans live today our cherished values and principles.

Lokodo’s comments apparently received fairly wide play in Uganda’s press:

The Ugandan government has also released a more lengthy statement on the official press office’s web site, which paints Uganda’s local LGBT community as a product of “foreign forces”:

The Government has learnt of the ongoing promotion of activities of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Movement in Kampala, who with the influence of some foreign forces have organized week-long festivities in different locations in Kampala and Wakiso Districts.

The promotion of these festivities, which would purportedly culminate in a “Gay Parade” on Saturday 6th August 2016, is criminal and illegal as they have not been cleared by the Uganda Police Force, and are against the laws of the Republic of Uganda; specifically the Penal Code, which is built on precedents set in many other countries.

…We wish to emphasize that whereas the promotion of homosexuality is criminalized under the Penal Code, there is no violence against the LGBT community in Uganda — contrary to some claims made loosely by proponents of this movement.

…Government will not condone the promotion of the illegal activities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)movement and through the Uganda police will work to ensure that the criminal and illegal activities of the Gay community are halted.

The organizers of the planned Gay Parade on Saturday 6th August 2016 are advised to stop their activities immediately. The public is called upon to refrain from joining and participating in Gay activities.

As several Ugandans have already pointed out, Uganda has no such law against “the promotion of LGBT activities.” Uganda’s constitution promises broad freedom of speech protections, although in practice the authoritarian President Yoweri Museveni has pushed a set of draconian laws through parliament that he has used as a pretext to jail dissidents and political opponents and ban meetings, rallies and other gatherings. The law requires organizations holding such meetings to notify police ahead of time and obtain permission before going ahead with the meeting. LGBT activists in Uganda say that they have complied with the law for Uganda Pride activities in 2014 and 2015 without incident. They also say that they gave notice to police in 2016, but the Ugandan authorities have accused the groups of violating the law.

Homosexuality itself is a crime under an older Ugandan law that was inherited from Britain when Uganda gained independence in 1962. According to that law, any person who “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature…commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.” But there is no legal mechanism that prohibits LGBT advocacy or support activities. There are, however, plenty of non-legal or extra-legal mechanisms at play, which Lokodo has no fear of deploying.

Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo is a defrocked Catholic priest who was one of the strongest proponents of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as the “Kill the Gays Bill” due to the death penalty for “repeat offenders” of homosexual activity, as well as for anyone who was gay and HIV-positive. Lokodo was among the chorus of Ugandans who repeatedly lied to the rest of the world about the existence of the death penalty in the proposed legislation.

The bill also would have added criminal penalties for anyone who advocated on behalf of gay people, anyone who provided housing or other services to gay people, and anyone who neglected to report gay people to police. In 2014, the Uganda Parliament approved an amended version the Anti-Homosexualty Bill which dropped the death penalty in favor of a lifetime sentence. Following worldwide condemnation and several countries suspending foreign aid to Uganda, the country’s Constitutional Court annulled the law on a technicality later that year in a face-saving move.

But even before Parliament acted on the bill, Lokodo often pretended as though the proposed legislation had already become law by shutting down LGBT rights conferences and meetings. He arrested the producer of a play which was being performed at a small theater portraying the difficulties LGBT people face living in Uganda. He has also moved to shut down NGOs for their perceived or actual support for LGBT rights, although Ugandan activists have repeatedly defied his ban on their work.

In 2009, American extremist Scott Lively, along with ex-gay activists Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge appeared at the now infamous March 2009 conference in Kampala and called for “offering”  gay people the false choice between lengthy prison terms and ex-gay therapy. Conference organizers also distributed copies of discredited American ex-gay activist Richard Cohen’s book, Coming Out Straight. Cohen was banned for life from the American Counseling Association, and his controversial “holding” or “touch” therapy techniques has made him the laughingstock of the ex-gay movement.

In his talk at the 2009 conference, Scott Lively re-inforced several stereotypes about gay people in Uganda, principally the idea that homosexuality is a foreign import in Africa and that people become gay as the result of financial and other material inducements from wealthy foreigners. Several members of Uganda’s parliament reportedly attended that conference and several other follow-up meetings after an announcement was made at the end of a Parliamentary session inviting members to the conference. While Lively is not the origin of those false stereotypes, he did reinforce them. They are also included as part of yesterday’s official government statement:

In our society, our African values and cultures consider sexual activity to be private and personal, and it is not conducted in public. Certainly, neither is homosexuality.

It is for this reason that the promotion of ‘gay’ activities is unwelcome.

In addition, we have noted that the promotions being held are aimed at mobilizing people to join this LGBT movement, which interestingly goes against the argument that gays are “born” that way. We are aware that there are inducements, including money, being offered to young people to promote the practice.

Meanwhile, local activists vow to resist government efforts to shut down public meetings:



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