Ugandan authorities has said it has arrested 16 LGBT activists on suspicion of gay sex, which is punishable with life imprisonment, in what fellow activists called an escalating campaign against sexual minorities.
The 16 men, believed to be aged between 22 and 35, were taken into custody late on Monday at the office of a sexual health charity where they all worked and lived, fellow activists said.
It was not clear if the men had been formally charged nor when they might appear in court.
The men all worked for the charity Let’s Walk Uganda. They were initially taken into “protective custody” after a crowd yelling homophobic slurs surrounded their office, rights groups said. Police said the group was detained after they were alerted to “illegal activities” by the community.
A police spokesman said on Thursday officers had found lubricants, condoms and anti-retroviral drugs at the charity, and had conducted medical examinations on all 16.
“Based on the medical examination report, it was established that the suspects were involved in sexual acts punishable under the penal code,” said a police spokesman, Patrick Onyango.
“The 16 activists have been held by police for over 48 hours, forced to undergo anal examinations. We are expecting them to be produced before court today.”
Members of the LGBT community say they risk physical attacks in their daily life and routinely encounter harassment, as well as facing prejudice over work, housing and healthcare.
Campaigners have reported a spate of attacks this year – including four murders – with the latest on 4 October, when a LGBT rights activist was bludgeoned to death. Police have said they were unaware of any such attacks.
Earlier this month, a minister proposed the introduction of the death penalty for gay sex, a threat retracted by the government after international donors condemned the move. Activists said the raid was a step up by the police. “Normally we will hear of maybe one arrest of someone from the community under these anti-gay laws in one month, but it is really unusual to see 16 people charged like this,” said Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda.
Under the Ugandan penal code, any person who has “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” or anyone who accedes to anal sex is liable to life imprisonment. (Source: The Guardian)