Uganda’s chief homophobe stops IDAHOTB event at last minute

Minister Simon Lokodo

Despite having permission in place, an event marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) in Kampala, Uganda has been shut down minutes before it was set to start.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) was forced on Thursday to cancel its function by the police on the orders of the notoriously homophobic Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo.

Kuchu Times reports that the Kampala Metropolitan Police told the crowd that had gathered for the event to disperse, ignoring the fact that the organisation had obtained permission from the area police station for it to take place, as per the Public Order Management Act.

In a statement, Smug condemned the state’s action and said that it was unlawful as the Ugandan courts have affirmed that LGBTI people are entitled to the freedoms of association and assembly.

Smug expressed its concern “that these violations are occasioned by the Uganda Police on the instructions of the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, who has publicly declared a war against what is termed as ‘exhibition and promotion of homosexuality in Uganda’. These instructions are unlawful and should not be enforced,” it insisted.

Pepe Julian Onziema, the Programmes Director for Smug noted that this is the eighth LGBTI event to be interfered with and / or stopped by the state in less than two years. “We are deeply saddened and concerned with this trend that continues to undermine Uganda’s human rights obligations under its Constitution and International Human Rights law”, he said.

Godiva Akullo, a lawyer with Chapter Four Uganda stated that “the actions of the minister on this day are abhorrent and should be condemned by any Ugandan who believes in human rights. The police’s insistence on enforcing unlawful orders issued by the Minister for Ethics and Integrity is disappointing and an abuse of their powers and duty to maintain law and order and protect the rights of all Ugandans.”

The Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Dr. Frank Mugisha, said that the LGBTI community would not be intimidated. “As members of Uganda’s LGBTI community, it is important to remain steadfast and resilient in the demand for the respect of our human rights and dignity, especially in the face of adversity,” he commented.

Earlier this month, Minister Lokodo said he was behind the last-minute suspension of an HIV symposium, the First Annual Key and Priority Populations Conference in Uganda, because he claimed it would “promote homosexuality and other dirty things.” The organisers first said they hoped the event would go ahead at a later date, but this week they confirmed that the conference had been canceled by the authorities.

Minutes before the police banned the event (Pic: Kuchu Times)

MARPs Network Limited said it was “deeply disappointed” at the conference’s cancellation and expressed fears that it could have an adverse effect on efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the country, especially among vulnerable groups such as the LGBTI community, men who have sex with men and sex workers.

A former Catholic priest, Minister Lokodo has previously suggested that heterosexual rape is more morally acceptable than consensual homosexual sex. He’s compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, said that homosexuality was brought to Uganda by westerners, has threatened to ban NGOs that support LGBTQ equality and has personally accompanied police in raids on LGBTI rights workshops.

Lokodo has also claimed that young people are being actively “recruited” to become LGBTI. In 2016, he announced that he was acquiring a South Korean “machine” that could track down gay people.

Colonial-era legislation criminalises gay sex in Uganda, allowing the courts to imprison anyone found guilty of homosexuality for life.

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