Posts Tagged As: Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

LGBT Activists Cancel Uganda Pride After Threats From Government Official

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2016

Yesterday, Uganda police raided a private party being held as part of Uganda Pride celebrations, arresting about 20-25 people and severely beating several transgender and crossdressing people attending a Mr/Mrs/Mx Uganda Pride pageant. Police later released all of those who had been arrested. LGBT leaders had vowed to continue with the rest of the planned activities for the week, but after a meeting with a government minister, organizers called off the rest of the Pride activities out of concern for the safety of participants. J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed has the details:

On Friday, lawyer Nick Opiyo of Chapter 4 Uganda met with Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo to discuss the raid. Following the meeting, Opiyo told BuzzFeed News that Lokodo had threatened to bring opposition to the event to the streets, so organizers decided it should be canceled.

Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a local NGO, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the parade on Saturday was cancelled and postponed “at least” until the following week.

“We decided to suspend it because of the risks to personal safety,” Opiyo said. “The minister threatened to mobilize a mob and a large police group to beat up anyone who shows up for pride tomorrow. We will engage the government next week with a view of holding the pride parade at another date soon.”

Opiyo indicates that Lokodo may be acting as a loose canon by directly breaking an agreement between the Ugandan government and donor nations which allowed similar pride events to take place quietly in 2014 and 2015.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo

Simon Lokodo is a defrocked Catholic priest who is now, ironically, in charge of the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Seriously. He was one of the strongest proponents of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which provided the death penalty for “repeat offenders” of homosexual activity, as well as for anyone who was gay and HIV-positive. It also 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. 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. 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 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.

This latest action against the LGBT community is taking place amid a rapid escalation of human rights violations being committed by Uganda police over the past few years in support of the increasingly authoritarian President Yowery Museveni. Police violence against the ruling party’s political opponents have become routine, culminating the arrest last March of opposition leader Kizza Besigye on trumped up charges of treason after Museveni won an unprecedented fifth term to continue his 30-year rule. According to a statement issued by a coalition of NGOs participating in the Uganda Pride activities:

This episode of police brutality did not happen in isolation, the groups said. It comes at a time of escalating police violence targeting media, independent organizations, and the political opposition.

“Any force by Ugandan police targeting a peaceful and lawful assembly is outrageous,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who was among those arrested. “The LGBTI community stands with all Ugandan civil society movements against police brutality.”

“The Ugandan government should condemn violent illegal actions by police targeting the LGBTI community and all Ugandans,” said Asia Russell at Health GAP. “The US and all governments should challenge President Museveni to intervene immediately and hold his police force accountable.”

LGBTI Ugandans routinely face violence, discrimination, bigotry, blackmail, and extortion. The unlawful government raid on a spirited celebration displays the impunity under which Ugandan police are operating. “The state has a duty to protect all citizens’ enjoyment of their rights, including the right to peacefully assemble to celebrate Pride Uganda,” said Hassan Shire, executive director at Defend Defenders. “A swift and transparent investigation should be conducted into last night’s unacceptable demonstration of police brutality.”

Yesterday’s raid provides a tragic reminder of why everyone needs to be concerned about the personal safety of anyone who might show up at a pride event the next few days. During yesterday’s raid, one transman was severely injured when he tried to escape by jumping from a balcony on the fourth floor of the hosting pub. He is currently in Mulago hospital in very serious condition:

More Details About Police Raid on Uganda Pride Emerge

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2016

Kasha Jaqueline’s Kuchu Times has published more details about yesterday’s police raid on a Uganda Pride event at a rooftop pub in downtown Kampala:

pridelogoSoon, they started confiscating people’s cameras and phones claiming they did not want people to spread the news on Facebook! The Officer in Charge, a rather arrogant man in demeanor, addressed the now extremely perplexed crowd and informed us were being held for conducting a gay wedding even though the laws of the land were very clear on homosexuality. Our faces fell! It seemed like our ordeal had just began and on bad note. Efforts to correct this information were futile as he shut down everyone who attempted to pass on the right information of what was actually happening.

A short while later, the same officer said he was retaining us for holding an unlawful gathering under the Public Order Management Act. The organizers still tried to inform him that they had attained permission from the Police prior but all their pleas fell on deaf ears.

…The beatings then started as the officers kicked and whipped people. Media was called and pictures of the attendees taken; all this while with the police forcing them (the attendees) to look into the cameras. The officer once again addressed us and said he would not tolerate this kind of ‘nonsense’ in his division.

After staying in the cold bundled up like criminals for over one and a half hours, we were released with caution that next time would be fatal.

According to other tweets from last night, it appears that police singled out transgender and crossdressing participants for especially harsh treatment. It’s unknown at this time what other media photographers were at the raid. One tabloid, Red Pepper, has a particularly notorious history of publishing, photos, namesoccupations and places of residences of LGBT people in prior vigilante campaigns.

Despite last nights events, the LGBT community remains defiant, and promise to maintain their schedule of activities this week:

Although activists urge caution:

Uganda Pride Raided By Police

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2016

These are tweets Pride Uganda, Kasha Jaqueline’s Kuchu Times, Frank Mugisha, and other Ugandan LGBT activists describing a raid on a Uganda Pride event as it happened Thursday night:

Uganda Pride has been held annually for several years, although it is never widely publicized. In most years, it has been held in secret, and publicized only after the events have taken place. Pride participants are usually told where the event is located very soon before it is scheduled to begin.

But there is one catch to that secrecy. The ruling party of Uganda’s increasingly dictatorial President Yoweri Museveni pushed the Public Order Management Act (PDF: 473KB/20 pages) through Parliament in 2013. The law gives police broad powers to prohibit peaceful assembly for any reason or for no reason. Museveni, who has been President since 1986, has used his expanded police powers to jail political opponents and prohibit peaceful meetings and rallies during his re-election campaign earlier this year.

Nevertheless, LGBT activists say that they had obtained permission from the police to hold this year’s event as required by law, and as they have done since the Public Order Management Act went into effect. No problems with police were reported by LGBT activists in 2014 or 2015. Why things are different for 2016 is anyone’s guess, although speculation obviously turns to possible connections to widespread allegations of police brutality against opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his supporters during and after Museveni’s re-election.  Besigye is currently out on bail on trumped up charges of treason. It’s a common practice in Uganda to divert public attention to LGBT people whenever public confidence in the country’s political and legal institutions is shaken.

Dr. Frank Mugisha is Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda:

And @Opimva is the Twitter handle for Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan transgender advocate.

J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed spoke to some of the activists:

Around 20 to 25 people were arrested, those detained told BuzzFeed News after their release. That number included Pepe Julian Onziema and Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda, who both posted on their Twitter timelines that they were being placed under arrest at around 10:30 p.m. local time. Clare Byarugaba, former co-coordinator of the coalition opposing anti-LGBT legislation in Uganda and now on the staff of the human rights group Chapter 4 Uganda was also among those taken into custody, Chapter 4 director Nick Opiyo told BuzzFeed News.

Michael Lavers at the Washington Blade adds:

Asia Russell, executive director of Health GAP, an HIV/AIDS service organization, told the Washington Blade from Kampala that eyewitnesses said officers entered a nightclub in which a Uganda Pride beauty pageant was taking place at around 11 p.m. local time.

Russell said that up to 300 people were inside the nightclub — which is across the street from the U.S. Embassy — when the raid began.

She told the Blade that police “were assaulting people” with their hands and canes.

Russell said officers were “extremely brutal with” the gender non-conforming and trans women they singled out.

Russell told the Blade that eyewitnesses said the police sexually assaulted those who were inside the nightclub. She said they confiscated their cell phones and threatened to send the pictures they took of them to the media.


Buzzfeed reports:

“They were beating people … mostly the trans women,” Adebayo Katiiti Phiona, who won the title of Mr. Pride in 2015, told BuzzFeed News. “A police person even stepped on a trans woman.”

At one point, police were apparently claiming that a gay wedding was taking place. While Uganda’s constitution does not allow same-sex marriage, conducting a gay wedding is not, in and of itself, a criminal offense in Uganda.

Homosexuality 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.”

In 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced into Parliament which would have provided for the death penalty for homosexual acts. It would have also provided criminal penalties for anyone who refused to report gay people to police, or who provided shelter or aid to anyone who was gay. An amended version of the law was passed by Parliament in 2014, but after worldwide condemnation with several countries suspending foreign aid to Uganda, the country’s Constitutional Court found a face-saving technicality to cite in order to annul the law. Meanwhile, the legal situation for LGBT people in Uganda remains very tenuous.

Police apparently were trying to use the Public Order Management Act as justification for blocking the Pride celebration, but activists say that they had complied with the law by obtaining police permission ahead of time.

Pepe Julian Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda told BuzzFeed News that police said the event was held without proper permission from police, a claim he emphatically denied.

“There’s no way we would hold an event without a clearance,” Onziema said, saying organizers had always communicated with police before holding Pride events for the last four years. “They don’t care as long as the word homosexuality is mentioned. As soon as that is mentioned, everything else ceases and [police feel they] have to act.”

A couple of hours later, all of the LGBT leaders were set free, apparently without charge:

Although one person was reportedly injured seriously while trying to escape. According to the Washington Blade:

Russell also told the Blade that a trans woman who jumped from the fourth floor of the nightclub during the raid remains in critical condition at a local hospital.

“Police behavior throughout this unlawful raid was brutal,” said Russell.

Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

At noon this morning Kampala time, Uganda’s Constitutional Court has declared the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act null and void. The Court said that the law was invalid because Parliament lacked the constitutionally-mandated quorum when it passed the legislation last December. Article 88 of Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 469KB/192pages) requires that at least one third of members be present any time Parliament votes “on any question.”

The court room was reportedly tense as people gathered this morning for the session to start at 9:30 local time (2:30 a.m. EDT). The court had heard testimony on Wednesday and Thursday over the quorum issue, and observers were expected the court to rule on that question today. As 9:30 came and went, the Court announced that they were putting off the morning’s session until noon. Pastor Martin Ssempa reportedly became agitated as the morning progressed, and police had to step in to settle the situation down.

When the Constitutional Court resumed at Noon, it read its judgment nullifying the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Meanwhile, Ssempa’s twitter feed went silent after the court’s verdict. As of this moment, this was his last tweet:

J. Lester Feder reports that LGBT activists are bracing for another round of violence following the court’s decision:

The law’s supporters, like Ssempa and the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, had been whipping up their supporters during the two days of hearings before the ruling, and LGBT activists expected a backlash if they won.

“Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members,” said Kasha Jacqueline of the organization Freedom and Roam Uganda, another of the petitioners. “People are going to retaliate — not just the members of parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Act provided a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of homosexuality. It also imposed a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which include “serial offenders” of homosexuality “or related offences.” Related offenses include lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people. The Act also provided for the extradition of any “person charged with an offence under this Act.”

Before its passage, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been safely bottled up in Parliament, but observers believe domestic politics eventually took over and ensured the bill’s passage. Originally introduced in 2009, the bill remained bottled up in the House, which failed in its last minute efforts to pass the bill before the Eight Parliament expired in 2011. House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had spent much of 2012 and 2013 raising her profile in a possible bid to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the run-up to the 2016 general elections, engineered the bill’s reintroduction in Parliament in February 2012. It’s passage appeared imminent at the end of that year when it became a political football in a larger fight over control of the country’s newly-developing oil reserves. As Parliament tore itself apart over a contentious oil bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill rose to the top of Parliament’s published Order Papers, which sets the agenda for the day, under the heading of “Business to follow,” of actions to take place after the oil bill’s passage. It was believed that the hugely popular Anti-Homosexuality Bill was being held close at hand as a potential unifying measure. But after Parliament passed the contentious petroleum legislation, it broke for Christmas and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was quietly removed from the Order Papers when Parliament resumed in the Spring of 2013.

But behind-the-scene plans to swiftly pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without debate emerged in April 2013, when the opposition magazine Observer reported that a MP’s were lobbying Kadaga to hold the debate in a closed-door session so that individual members could speak freely without having foreign donations to their pet projects or travel visas jeopardized. On December 20, Kadaga made a snap call to bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the house for a final vote, despite the bill not appearing on the order papers for the day. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi objected to the vote citing the lack of quorum, but Kadaga overruled Mbabazi and the bill passed on December 20.

Museveni’s initial reaction was to wrote a letter to Kadaga criticizing Parliament’s rushed approval about the bill. Among his many complaints were that the bill was passed without the proper quorum. He told representatives of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in January that he would reject what he called the “fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But again, politics intervened. Mbabazi was also maneuvering to challenge Museveni’s position at the same time as Kadaga, and he was already on record as objecting to Parliament’s passage of the legislation. Museveni’s about-face in February was seen by many as part of a larger effort to counter Mbabazi’s efforts to build a rival power base within the ruling National Resistance Movement. Museveni signed the bill on February 24.

The bill’s signing initiated a wave of anti-gay vigilantism in the press while the government raided several NGO’s for allegedly “promoting” homosexuality. In March, a coalition of human rights groups petitioned the Constitutional Court, charging that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violated several constitutionally-guaranteed rights, including the rights to privacy, free expression, thought, assembly, association, civil participation, and the rights to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It also charged that Parliament acted improperly in passing the bill without a quorum.

In Uganda, it’s typical for court cases to proceed at a snails pace, with months passing between small bursts of activity. Cases often languish for years. So it was a significant surprise when the Court’s first act came late last week with a snap call for both sides to present their cases on Wednesday and Thursday, which caught a lot of people off guard. State Attorney Patricia Mutesi complained that she wasn’t prepared to proceed with her arguments and asked for a delay, but the court rejected that request. It heard testimony Wednesday and Thursday, and delivered its decision today. That lightning-quick movement is practically unprecedented, leading many to speculate on the politics behind the court’s dramatic move. Museveni is planning to travel to Washington, D.C. next week to attend a summit of African leaders.

LGBT and human rights activists say they expect the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be reintroduced in Parliament again, but it would mean starting the entire process over again, including motions to seek permission to introduce the bill, a certificate of financial implication from the government, and committee hearings. That certificate of financial implication is likely the most logical step for Museveni to step in to quash the bill. When the bill was first introduced, the certificate certified that there were no financial implications, but with several countries suspending or canceling foreign aid to Uganda over the AHB, the financial toll of reintroducing the bill is now known to be enormous. It is believed that foreign aid makes up from twenty to thirty percent of Uganda’s GDP, and about twenty percent of the government’s budget.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court Hears Challenge to Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

NTVUganda reported on Wednesday’s proceedings before Uganda’s Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Petitioners challenging the AHB contend that the law not only violates the constitution, but was passed in Parliament without a quorum. If this report is representative, it appears that the central question in today’s proceedings was the lack of quorum. Uganda’s Daily Monitor this morning provided further details of that exchange:

“You should be very careful if you are to pass this Bill, you must have quorum. These are not joking matters,” (attorney for petitioners) Mr. (Nicholas) Opiyo quoted the Prime Minister as saying to the Speaker of Parliament.

Mr Opiyo further quoted the Prime Minister: “I would like to see quorum in the House before passing this Bill.”

He argued that Ms Kadaga violated the Rules of Procedure of Parliament and the Constitution. Another lawyer representing pro-gay activists, Mr Caleb Alaka, accused Ms Kadaga of not minding to check whether there was the right quorum to pass the Bill into law despite being alerted about the lack of the same.

Mr Alaka added that another MP during the voting process, whose name he did not mention, shouted that they should go ahead and pass the Bill into law, saying after all they had passed other Bills into law without the recommended quorum.

Mr Alaka submitted that the AG, through the affidavit of Mr Denis Bireije, the commissioner of Civil Litigation has not challenged the issue of quorum, literally meaning that they have conceded.

In the circumstances, Mr Alaka asked the court to allow their petition and among others, declare that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed without the right quorum, hence its null and void.

The matter of a quorum is very important here. Article 88 of the Uganda Constitution (PDF: 469KB/192 pages) is very specific about it:

88. Quorum of Parliament.

(1) The quorum of Parliament shall be one-third of all members of Parliament entitled to vote.

(2) The quorum prescribed by clause (1) of this article shall only be required at a time when Parliament is voting on any question.

(3) Rules of procedure of Parliament shall prescribe the quorum of Parliament for the conduct of business of Parliament other than for voting.

There are 375 members of Parliament, 263 of which are held by the ruling National Resistance Movement. A quorum would consist of 125 members.

There was one interesting bit of pertinent information that came out of this report. In order for a law to go officially in effect, it must be printed in the Uganda Gazette. “Gazetting” a law is a common procedure in Commonwealth countries. It’s typically a mere formality but an important one, as it marks the law’s first official day in force. According to Daily Monitor:

The pro-gay activists, among others, want court to issue permanent orders staying the operationality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. They also want court to permanently stay the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 which has not yet been gazetted.

This should be surprising, as the government has been raiding NGO’s and shutting them down over allegations that they were violating specific clauses of the AHB, namely those prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

The WBS report was considerably less balanced, reporting unfounded allegations that the former Opposition leader Prof. Moris Ogenga Latigo was petitioning against the AHB “to get quick money from individuals promoting inhuman acts.” Pentecostal Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the AHB’s staunchest supporters, was given free access to WBS’s cameras for his speech.

The law that was passed, was passed out of great difficulty. And we see over here many men and women who have been given money by the whites, the Europeans, the Americans, to come and to try to stop the good law that was made. And they are using every trick necessary. They have also threatened our judges and our officers that if they do not make rules or they are seen as against homosexuality, that they will not have visas, they will not travel.

In a separate article, Daily Monitor reported that after the State Attorney tried to put off proceedings to a later date, she submitted the government’s response Thursday morning. This means that Constitutional Court could deliver a ruling as early as tomorrow.

Petitioners against the AHB include Makarere University School of Law’s Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, former opposition leader Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma (who longtime BTB readers may remember as the formerly-anonymous blogger GayUganda), and LGBT activists  Frank Mugisha, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, and Pepe Julian Onziema.

Human Rights Groups Petition Uganda’s Constitutional Court over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2014

Petition to the Constitutional Court (click to download/PDF: 219KB/11 pages).

Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports:

A coalition of fifty civil society organisations on Human rights today filed a petition in the constitutional court challenging the legality of Law on Homosexuality.

The activists argue that the Anti Homosexuality Act violates Ugandans’ Constitutionally guaranteed right to: privacy, to be free from discrimination, dignity, to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association; to the presumption of innocence, and to the right to civic participation.

In a statement issued by the Coalition Members, the petitioners said that the Act represents an effort by the Executive and Parliament to scapegoat an unpopular minority for political gain.

There are ten named petitioners, including LGBT rights activists Dr. Paul Semugoma (longtime BTB readers may know him as the formerly the anonymous blogger GayUganda), Freedom and Roam Uganda founder Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, transgender rights activist Julian Pepe Onziema, and Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha. The petition was also signed by Joe Oloka-Onyango, a Professor of Law and Director of the Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Centre in Kampala; Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and founder of the Ugandan news magazine Independent; and M.P. Fox Odoi-Oywelowo. Rounding out the named petitioners are the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

The petition states that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by parliament without a proper quorum as required by Uganda’s Constitution and that it violates the Constitutions guarantees of equality and privacy. The petition also argies that “in criminalising touching by persons of the same sex, creates an offence that is overly broad and is in contravention of the principle of legality” under the Constitution. The petition then goes on to each clause of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and describes the articles of the Constitution the clause violates.

It would appear that the law itself is not yet officially in effect. The final step to make a law official is for it to be “gazetted,” or published in the official Uganda Gazette. This is a common formality in a number of British Commonwealth nations, but Daily Monitor notes that the Anti-Homosexuality Act has not yet undergone that step. The petition asks the court to “permanently stay() the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

The petition is also calling on the court to issue an order barring media from publishing photos, names, addresses and occupations of people thought to be gay. Since President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on February 24, tabloids like Red Pepper, Hello and others have been waging mass vigilante campaigns on their front pages and publishing other stories designed to incite hatred and violence. There have been reports on blogs and social media that LGBT people are receiving eviction notices from their landlords.

Ugandan LGBT Activists React

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2014

Frank Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda:

Pepe Julian Onziema changed his Twitter name to IAMGoingNowhere:

Kasha Jacqueline heads Freedom and Roam Uganda:

Uganda’s Parliament Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2013

There are multiple reports from Uganda media indicating that the nation’s Parliament has given its final approval to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. The independent Daily Monitor leads with the story:

Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, which proposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.

A proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted for homosexual acts, which the Bill criminalises, was rejected by Members of Parliament who instead maintained the life imprisonment proposal.

After voting to pass the Bill into law MPs asked the President to assent to it fast enough so it becomes law. They also passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for the “gift”.

The tabloid Red Pepper confirms the story, as do Warren Throckmorton and the BBC, which reports that the bill apparently passed despite a possible lack of quorum in Parliament:

The prime minister opposed the vote, saying not enough MPs were present. …She says that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum, while it remains to be seen whether President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill into law.

The government-owned New Vision reports that the Prime Minister said “there would be further ‘consultations’ on part of the government.” It also reports that President Yoweri Museveni “will decide if it becomes law or not.”

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s decision to bring the bill up for a vote appears to have been a surprise. There has been no indication that the bill would be brought for a vote in the Order Papers posted on Parliament’s web site.

It is unclear which provisions of the bill’s original proposals made it into the final version passed by Parliament. This BBC report indicates the death penalty was dropped, but news agencies, including the BBC, have a very long history of getting this wrong before. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) Last year, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee made numerous recommendations to the bill, but held those recommendations secret. Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of those recommendations and posted them here.  The original bill (PDF: 847KB/16 pages) contained the following provisions:

Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” as defined in the first two clauses are so broad that just about anyone can be convicted of just about anything, including “touching” with the “intent” of committing “homosexuality,” even when fully clothed. It also sets the penalty for any “homosexual act” as life imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended reducing that sentence to fourteen years, but based on news reports it appears that Parliament has rejected that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the subclause outlawing “touching” with the “intent” of committing homosexuality was deleted.)
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended replacing the death penalty with a life sentences, but it is not clear whether Parliament approved that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?
Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.” The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of this clause for being “too hard and difficult to prove and may cause absurdities.” (Update: Parliament Watch conforms that Clause 4 was deleted.)
Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage and even opens the possibility for financial incentives for one partner to turn state’s evidence against another. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of Clause 8, which would have prohibited the “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” The committee also recommended the removal of Clause 10, which would have prohibited the “detention with intent to commit homosexuality.” The reason given for the removal of both clauses was to prevent “absurdities.” At this time it is unknown whether Parliament followed through on those recommendations. (Update: Parliament Watch confirms that Clause 8 was deleted. They also confirm that Clause 10 was deleted.)
Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. The bill has specific clauses that would also target family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords for refusing to turn gay people over to the police or providing services to anyone that they know to be gay. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 14 (“failure to disclose”), but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.) Providing services or providing lodgings still appear to be illegal.
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. Officiating a same-sex wedding results in up to three years’ imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the penalty for entering into a marriage from life to fourteen years. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the penalty for conducting a marriage was raised to seven years.)
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will result in prison sentences.
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. A closer look shows that the requirement to report doesn’t just apply to gay people, but to anyone, gay or straight, who violates the law’s clauses. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.)
Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. “Crimes” committed outside of Uganda by Ugandan citizens or residents will result in prosecution in Uganda.The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating these clauses, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 18, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.

Ugandan Activist Speaks Out Against Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2012

Her name is Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, but her friends call her “Bombastic Kasha.” She is Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) and the 2011 winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She narrowly escaped arrest last February when Ugandan police raided a gay rights conference in Entebbe.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Pepsi has a very large presence in Uganda. One group is calling on Pepsico to speak out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

…(O)ur allies on the ground tell us that if Pepsi, which has a huge presence in Uganda, speaks out against the bill and the harmful effect it would have on investment and economic development in Uganda, it would force Ugandan officials to put the bill on hold — or even pull it entirely. Add your name to our petition to Pepsi, telling it to speak out against this horrific “Kill the Gays” bill that’s racing through the Ugandan Parliament.

Eyewitness Gives Account of Raid On Entebbe

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2012

Dr. Hilda Tadria, co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund, was giving a talk at the LGBT conference in Entebbe, Uganda that was raided by Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo. She has issued this statement describing the raid:

At a hotel in Entebbe this week, I was subjected to an experience that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. I am a recently retired (but not tired) almost 70 year old married mother of two and grandmother of seven. For many years, I have trained and mentored young people in leadership skills and the art of advocacy, particularly in connection with the subjects of Gender and Human Rights. On Tuesday I was invited to facilitate a session on leadership, using the the Four Frames of Leadership to a group of sexual minorities. Another facilitator at the meeting was Hope Chigudu. Like me, Hope is a law-abiding married mother of senior citizenship. A few hours into my session, the Hon. Rev. Simon Lokodo—Minister of Ethics and Integrity—walked into the room.

The Minister introduced himself and proceeded to give a lecture on ethics and morality. In addition, he accused the gathering of being an illegal assembly ‘recruiting’ people into homosexuality, even insinuating that we were having sex in the meeting room. Then, in a strange twist of events, the Minister declared the meeting disbanded. Everybody was just told to go home. Kasha Nabagesera, activist and conference Convenor was threatened with arrest, while one of the participants who came from Sweden was challenged to explain how she had even entered the country. Soon after closing the meeting, the Minister was heard telling somebody over the telephone, “Yes, I have just disbanded them.”

Prior to his entry into the meeting, the Minister sent a message to the conference Convenor requesting details of the meeting. The program and all the training materials relating to the conference were sent to him, and the Minister asked to sit in on the proceedings. There being nothing to hide, the Convenor invited him to attend the meeting. Little did we know that the Minister would flare up in anger, make baseless accusations about the gathering and order the meeting closed. I was personally shocked by the action of the Minister, and the level of violent infuriation and intolerance he displayed. For a man of God, I saw no compassion, a great deal of prejudice and an utter unwillingness to listen. The Minister was too angry to hear good sense and simply failed to respond to any pleas for reason, ignoring both myself and Hope.

Reflecting on what happened on Tuesday, it is quite clear to me that the Minister over-stepped all boundaries of rational behavior. But more importantly, he blatantly violated the Law. In the first instance, every Ugandan has the right to assemble, speak freely and to have an education. This was a workshop convened to conduct training in skills that every citizen is entitled to. Secondly, although the Minister even went so far as to make the laughable claim that the gathering could have been planning a military coup or was plotting to disrupt national security, there is not an iota of evidence to support either claim. But I was most shocked that the Minister asserted that the government had all the right and the power to stop any kind of gathering that was taking place anywhere in the country; what a statement of arrogance and unbridled power! I find this wholly unacceptable and unsupported by any provision in the law. It is well known that if a gathering is to be stopped, there must be reasonable grounds to do so accompanied by the relevant legal documents, such as a court instruction or a Police order. The Hon. Minister was in possession of neither.

Tuesday’s actions by the Hon. Minister do not have any support in the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, or in any law known to me. Indeed, as I look ahead to the future Uganda that I want my grandchildren to live and thrive in, it is not the one I witnessed on Tuesday. Impunity comes in many guises; while the fascist actions of that day focused on a small group of activists, there is no telling who the target will be tomorrow. Autocratic government officials like the Rev. Simon Lokodo belong to an era I thought we had left far behind.

Despite earlier reports that Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was detained by police, LGBT advocates in Uganda say that she escaped detention, although she may still be in hiding. According to the online news portal UGPulse, “Lokodo says as the person mandated to maintain good morals in Uganda, it was his duty to ensure people do not meet to discuss ‘immoral acts’ in public places like hotels.” Uganda’s Observer reports that Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, claimed the conference gatherers were “planning violence” and were “gathered to recruit people into the practice of homosexuality.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has condemned the raid:

SMUG condemns this outright abuse of office by the State Minister of Ethics and Integrity.

According to Frank Mugisha one of the Coordinators of the Capacity Development workshop and present at the time; ”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.” Frank Mugisha is the Executive Director of SMUG and 2011 Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate

The Minister also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and 2011 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders when she dared to challenge him for disrupting the workshop. Kasha with the help of colleagues was whisked out of the hotel to safety.

The State Minister’s actions are illegal and in direct contravention of the Constitution of Uganda, The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other international human rights covenants to which Uganda is a party. These human rights instruments all robustly promote and protect the rights to Freedom of Speech, Expression, Association, Peaceful Assembly and the Right to Information of all citizens and human beings, without discrimination.

Sexual Minorities Uganda strongly condemns this notorious and continuous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda. Our campaign for equal rights is rooted in the fact that, as Ugandans, we are entitled to the respect and protection of the law just like all other Ugandans.


1. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and associate as is guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human rights law.

2. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect all peoples within her borders against threats, violence and harassment by state and non-state actors, irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. We call on the Government and people of Uganda to reject the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would only serve to further violate international human rights law and plant seeds of hate, intolerance and violence in Ugandan society.

4. We call on the Ugandan people to reject the government’s move to use homosexuality issues to divert Ugandans’ attention from the most pertinent issues that are affecting the nation.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has also condemned the raid:

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) condemns this infringement on the right to freedom of assembly and association as provided by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and calls on the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity to explain the grounds on which the actions were taken. EHAHRDP recalls the rights of human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without harassment or intimidation as provided by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Raid On Entebbe: Uganda Government Shuts Down LGBT Rights Conference

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2012

Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser

The African web site Behind the Mask led with the story this morning:

Kasha Jacqueline, the Director of Lesbian Rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda was briefly arrested today after a Ugandan cabinet minister staged a raid on a meeting of LGBTI activists and human rights defenders.

Activists at the meeting said police were deployed to ensure activists leave the premises. …Kasha’s close friends have since told Behind the Mask that she has been set free.

The cabinet minister’s raid forcefully stopped the meeting of LGBTI activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders.

The raid was personally led by Ethics and Integrity minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, who accused the gay rights advocates of “recruiting children into the gay life,” according to Behind the Mask. He also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser, but she fled the hotel and was able to avoid Lokodo’s security guards.  Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, picks up the story:

“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” Minister Lokodo told the participants.

Hotel staff had been asked by the organisers not to direct anyone to Elgon hall where the conference was taking place unless the person had been cleared. This would have required a phone call from the organisers.

The Minister said the hotel’s management apologized for hosting the event.

According to Daily Monitor, the conference was being held over the course of two weeks at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, and was due to wrap up today with an evening barbecue at the hotel’s pool.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo

Last week, Lokodo signed a statement posted on Uganda’s official press web site distancing the government from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been reintroduced into Parliament. While he tried to distance the government from the bill, Lokodo also lectured the international community that “cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world,” and that “the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.” Despite Lokodo’s statement, the death penalty is still firmly in place in the proposed bill. He also falsely asserted that “the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.” A look at the bill however makes clear that the issues of “defilement and rape” are little more than afterthoughts which provide a fig leaf to cover the bill’s direct assault against Uganda’s gay community.

It is not uncommon for the Ugandan government to violate the free assembly rights of its citizens. It has been a routine practice where political opposition leaders are concerned for several years. More specific to the gay community, Lokodo’s predecessor, James Nsaba Buturo, blocked the screening of a documentary film depicting LGBT human rights workers in December 2010 .

In 2011, Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UK Reverses Decision To Deny Visa To Ugandan LGBT Advocate

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2011

Last week, we reported that Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Today, Paul Canning reports that UKBA has reversed its decision and granted Kasha a visa:

Kasha was today granted a visa to visit Northern Ireland. When reapplying in Kampala she reports it being granted extremely quickly. We understand that there has been significant lobbying regarding the previous visa denial, in particular of the UK Foreign Office.

UK Denies Visa for Ugandan LGBT Advocate

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2011

Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Paul Canning reports that a UKBA spokesperson said that her visa was denied because Immigration officials feared that she might not return home after travelling to Britain. According to that spokesperson:

Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits and in accordance with the immigration rules”.

“The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules. This may include providing evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit.”

“Our rules are firm but fair and where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered.”

UKBA denies that Nabagesera’s LGBT advocacy was a factor in their decision.

Despite UKBA’s decision, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has strong ties to the LGBT community in Uganda, and she has travelled abroad numerous times as part of her advocacy, returning every time to her were back home. She spoke last weekend at an international meeting of Amnesty International in Geneva. Earlier this year, she wasawarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights by a consortium of ten international organizations. In May, she debated Ugandan MP David Bahati, the sponsor of draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Voice of America television. Last week, Nabagesera led a major educational campaign in Uganda to counter the widespread homophobia in that country. In other words, none of this looks like the profile of someone who flees a country at the first opportunity. Nabagesera clearly has ties and commitments in Uganda, and her commitments have been recognized internationally. All of this makes UKBA’s decision very puzzling and troubling.

Ugandan LGBT Advocacy Group Reports Suspicious Burglary

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2011

Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) has reported that their offices were broken into on Saturday night. According to a message posted on facebook by the group’s leader, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, thieves took five computers, two printers, a server, microwave oven and all office phones. Most worrying, some documents were taken, including the group’s membership database. A jerrycan of acid was left behind, and acid was poured into padlocks. No one was in the office at the time.

The crime has been reported to the police, but Kasha reports that they have not yet arrived at the premises to investigate the crime scene.

[Hat tip: Paul Canning]

“Kill the Gays” Bill Author Vows To Push Bill In New Parliament

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2011

Uganda’s independent Sunday Monitor this morning has published an interview with MP David Bahati, sponsor of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which he reiterated that the close of the 8th Parliament was simply “pressing the pause button.” He told Monitor reporter Philippa Croome that the bill’s death penalty “is something we have moved away from,” despite the fact that the death penalty has not been removed at all. In fact, the recommendation from the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee, which was given jurisdiction over the bill, recommended striking the phrase “shall suffer death” and replacing it with the phrase “shall suffer the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” Section 129 itself calls for the death penalty, which means that if the committee’s recommendations were adopted the death penalty would remain in place. It just wouldn’t be so obvious to those who don’t know what Section 129 specifies.

The death penalty however is barely scratching the surface for what the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would do, which Bahati acknowledges:

But the focus is on inducement, stopping the inducement of our children to this behaviour, and promotion- those two things are the ones that we will be focusing on.

If protecting children is the focus of the Bill, why does it require an entirely separate bill from current child protection laws?

We are not really singling out anybody. In 2007, we had an Act which stops defilement, the defilement Act, it is already there. We have the Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality in some form, but it is not specific, it’s not effective, it needs strengthening.

The Bill comes in to include other issues that have emerged over time-issues of promotion, it has never happened, it is happening now, issues of inducing children- it was never there, it was happening now.

Sunday Monitor also interviewed gay rights LGBT Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. She is the founder and director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders by a coalition of international human rights organizations. She called on the international community to continue to stand up for human rights in Uganda.

Every human rights violation that happens in Uganda, we need Ugandans to stand up and say enough is enough – and our allies in the international community to also stand up. At the end of the day, Uganda is not alone, we operate in a global village.

She also denounced the false charges that gays were trying to “recruit” children into homosexuality:

If I found someone trying to recruit children into homosexuality, I would even hand them in myself – he is trying to pretend that he’s protecting children of Uganda, but he’s not doing that.

Today, he thinks he is condemning Kasha, but he could be condemning his own children in future. There are very many children who are growing up and he is pretending to be protecting them, but they could turn out to be like some of us.

The issue here is not even recruitment or promotion. For two years, Bahati has been asked by everyone to produce the evidence and he has not produced it. He is just using that to get sympathy from the masses of people in Uganda who are parents – that’s the only reason he has insisted we are recruiting children. He does not have any other argument.

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