NUS Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Trans-gender (LGBT) campaigners joined with other gay rights organizations on Tuesday 9 October in protest against the alleged persecution, torture and arrest of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender people in Uganda and the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK.
‘In a country where same sex relations are illegal and pros-ecution carries with it a life sentence much of the Ugandan LGBT community is driven into hiding’
To mark the Ugandan day of Independence, an estimated fifty people gathered at noon outside the Ugandan embassy to hear speakers from various human rights groups, including Outrage! and Gay Rights Uganda, as they sought to highlight the plight of the Ugandan LGBT community.
Lucy Brookes, NUS LGBT officer, described the protest as “an opportunity for all students to show their support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender people in Uganda, who are facing brutal persecution purely on the basis of their sexuality”.
In a country where same-sex relations are illegal and prosecution carries with it a life sentence, much of the Ugandan LGBT community is driven into hiding or forced to seek asylum from persecution in countries such as the UK.
In recent weeks, the Ugandan Government has vowed to toughen the laws regarding homosexuality, launching a campaign to arrest those who ‘recruit homosexuals’.
Last week’s protest comes three weeks after Amnesty International reported on two LGBT human rights defenders having been beaten under police interrogation in Uganda.
Oundo George and Kiiza Brenda were arrested on 10th September and detained at Nabweru police post for a week, where they were alleged to have been physically intimidated and denied both food and medical attention. The pair were released on bail on Wednesday 17 September, charged with “involvement in indecent practices”.
Sexual Minorities Uganda, reports that since these arrests “the rest of the LGBT community is now living in fear simply because of who they are”.
Prominent among the speakers at last week’s protest also stood Kizza Musinguzi, editor of gayrightsuganda.org.
His presence at the protest sought to draw attention to the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK who are frequently denied their claims.
Ugandan national Musinguzi was himself a victim of the government sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community in 2004 and while imprisoned for his work with Gay Rights Uganda he was “subjected to four months of forced labour, water torture, beatings and rape”.
The following year he fled to the UK claiming asylum where he was detained at the Harmondsworth detention centre.
It was here that Musinguzi claims he was both racially and homophobically abused by staff who called him “nigger” and “batty boy”.
Musinguzi’s claim for asylum was initially rejected on the grounds that his treatment in Uganda was not considered as constituting persecution, and while he failed to secure himself legal representation, the Home Office fast-tracked his case for deportation. He remains in the UK today only due to an extraordinary intervention by parliament
According to the NUS LGBT Musinguzi’s experience is telling only in so much as it is one they come across time and again, with many LGBT asylum seekers finding their claims fast-tracked after having been informed they need no protection.
Despite protests the government has yet to call a review on the issue of LGBT asylum.