Uganda’s government now plans to “rehabilitate” gay people

Minister Simon Lokodo

Minister Simon Lokodo

Following a crackdown on the LGBTI community, Uganda’s government plans to “cure” gay people and will continue to block Uganda Pride activities.

The virulently anti-gay Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo issued a statement on Monday addressing the police raid on a Uganda Pride event last week.

Riddled with homophobia and deep ignorance about human sexuality, Lokodo’s statement is a new declaration of war against already beleaguered sexual minorities in the country.

The minister asserted that Uganda Pride is “criminal and illegal” and claimed that “no one was hurt or injured” during Thursday’s raid on the Pride pageant event

Lokodo said: “We wish to emphasise that whereas the promotion of homosexuality is criminalised under the Penal Code, there is no violence against the LGBT community in Uganda – contrary to some claims made loosely by proponents of this movement.”

This despite reports that one person was hospitalised after leaping from the sixth floor to escape police brutality. There were also reports that officers beat members of the public and activists during the raid.

Lokodo went on to rehash the misguided but widely believed trope that the LGBTI community “recruits” people (as if it were a cult of some kind); claiming that Uganda Pride is “aimed at mobilising people to join this LGBT movement…”

He added: “We are aware that there are inducements, including money, being offered to young people to promote the practice.”

Lokodo further insisted that Uganda needs to defend its “cultural values and our belief systems” in order to “protect the traditional family units from emerging internal and external threats”.

Children, he said, also need to be protected from the LGBT community as they “are made vulnerable to sexual abuse and deviation as a result of cultural changes, uncensored information technologies, parentless child developmental settings and increasing attempts by homosexuals to raise children in homosexual relationships through adoption, foster care, or otherwise.”

Lokodo went on to state: “Government will not condone the promotion of the illegal activities of the LGBT movement. Through the Uganda Police Force, Government worked to ensure that the criminal and illegal activities of the Gay community were halted and we will continue to suppress them.”

He concluded the statement by revealing that, “a programme to rehabilitate members of the LGBT Community, with the ultimate aim of giving them a chance to lead normal lives again has been developed.”

Lokodo did not provide further details about the programme. Attempts to change people’s sexuality and gender identity have been condemned by leading international mental health groups as ineffective and harmful.

Ugandan LGBTI organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has responded to Lokodo’s assertion that no-one was injured in the Venom club raid.

SMUG reaffirmed that, “one man was injured and two of his vertebrae broken when he tried to flee police brutality by jumping off the sixth floor of the building where the club is located”.

It also reported that SMUG Executive Director Dr Frank Mugisha and SMUG Programmes Director Pepe Julian Onziema and other LGBTI persons “were also beat up and tortured when police arrested them and locked them up at Kabalagala Police station”.

“Police also beat up transwomen, and transmen were beat up and touched inappropriately as officers of the Uganda police force tried to establish their ‘real gender’,” it added.

Onziema stated: “What Lokodo is denying about LGBTI persons not being tortured is not true, I was beat up while at the police cell and I lost hearing in my left ear.”

Mugisha explained that, while in the cell, the activists were forced to share one dirty basin and a small piece of soap to take a bath. “Pepe was beat up because he allegedly did not take a proper bath. They were then forced to clean the filthy bathrooms,” he explained.

Following the raid, further Uganda Pride events, including a planned march, were cancelled. The activists who were arrested in the raid were released the next day without being charged.

Over the last four years, Uganda Pride has been held largely as a private event. It has not been widely advertised and details are spread by word of mouth in the community.

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

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