Violent anti-LGBT hate crimes have been on the rise throughout Africa. In a series of attacks in Kenya, mobs have slashed gay men with machetes and beaten them with hammers. In South Africa, a group of five men gang-raped a gay man then set fire to his bed while he was in it, while a 26-year-old lesbian was found dead with a toilet brush shoved in her vagina. But terrifying as these incidents are, the most horrific reports of concerted anti-gay violence and persecution have come out of Uganda.
Uganda: Ground Zero
In 2009, authorities in Uganda began debating an Anti-Homosexuality Act, which threatened LGBT persons with life imprisonment and even execution for the “crime” of being gay. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of organizations advocating for the protection of LGBT Ugandans, began recording and reporting abuses arising from that proposed law. Frank Mugisha, SMUG’s Executive Director, reported that, as a result of the bill’s consideration “People are calling the police [with names of suspects] and harassing others in the streets.”
When the law passed in 2014, reports of anti-gay incidents increased tenfold. In May 2014, SMUG issued a report detailing attempted lynchings, mob violence, home torchings, blackmail, firings, arrests, evictions and suicides. Tabloid newspapers also joined in the fray, publishing 29 stories outing hundreds of LGBT individuals, which led often to further violence and familial shunning. For the first time, anti-LGBT hate crimes became officially sanctioned by, and in several cases carried out by, Ugandan authorities. SMUG recorded that “[m]ore than 40 percent of the incidents included intimidation by state authorities, intrusion by the press, blackmail, or arrest.”
Medical Complicity and Pseudoscience
In one case, Ugandan authorities arrested Maurice Okello, 22, and Anthony Oluku, 18, claiming they were caught “red-handed engaging in homosexuality” in the northern town of Oyam.