LGBT Ugandans face backlash as parliament launches schools investigation
DAYS after Uganda’s parliament ordered an investigation last month into the alleged promotion of homosexuality in schools, a video appeared online identifying Kampala resident Eric Ndawula as gay.
Ndawula, 26, said his landlord showed him the video, which was posted by someone whose name he did not recognise. The landlord then issued him a notice of eviction, saying the building could not accommodate a gay person.
“I am now a threat to the children around because I am going to recruit them into homosexuality,” Ndawula told Reuters ironically.
His experience is one example of a wave of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals since parliament announced its investigation, activists say.
The backlash has worsened the LGBT community’s already precarious status in Uganda, where same-sex relations are punishable by up to life in prison.
Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi did not respond to a request for comment about the impact of the investigation. Cuthbert Abigaba, the lawmaker leading the probe, told Reuters he was “not bothered by whatever they (LGBT people) say.”
Abigaba said the investigation was needed because children were being introduced to homosexuality in schools through recruitment and reading materials. He did not provide any evidence.
The committee will begin visiting schools and conducting interviews once the parliament speaker provides terms of reference, he said.
Already, the vitriolic language employed by officials to justify the investigation – as well as recent anti-gay comments by President Yoweri Museveni and the head of Uganda’s Anglican Church – have had far-reaching consequences, activists said.
“People have gone back into hiding, people have gone back into the closet … people are getting arrested. There’s a lot of blackmail and extortion by law enforcers,” said Frank Mugisha, an LGBT rights activist whose charity was shuttered last year.
Kampala-based human rights advocate Adrian Jjuuko said he was aware of victims who had been detained, beaten and threatened. One was nearly castrated by a mob, he said.
LGBT Ugandans fear their predicament could get even worse. On Tuesday, MP Asuman Basalirwa was given leave of parliament to prepare a new anti-LGBT law that he told Reuters would criminalise a range of activities, including “aiding, abetting, promoting, recruitment (of people) into” homosexuality.
Those provisions would make it similar to an anti-gay law Uganda passed in 2013. The law drew strong condemnation from the United States and other Western donors before it was struck down by a court as unconstitutional in 2014.