Update 12 May, 2014: Two LGBT Ugandans who were scheduled to face formal charges of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” were granted bail on the day their trial was to take place, for the first time since they were arrested in January. The trial, the first in the country’s history to bring formal charges regarding alleged gay sex, was rescheduled for June 12 after prosecutors announced they had enough information to proceed with the case.
For the first time since the signing of the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law, two men have appeared in court charged with committing ‘homosexual acts’. Kim Mukisa (24) and Jackson Mukasa (19) were arrested in December, accused of ‘living as husband and wife’. Their trial is scheduled for 7 May, 2014. The pair was arrested on the basis of old laws, but the much stricter new law will determine their fate.
For Hivos this case is typical of the disaster that is currently unfolding in Uganda. On 24 February this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the controversial anti-homosexuality bill. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but since February, the punishments for those convicted are terrifying. In addition, all organisations perceived to ‘promote’ homosexuality are outlawed.
The couple is being held in pre-trial detention in Luziro Prison, Kampala. At a hearing in February, Mukisa and Mukasa rejected the charges, but could not avoid going to court. Another earlier homosexuality case was thrown out before it reached the courts. Many defendants are willing to pay hefty fines to avoid a prison sentence.
In early April 2014, two other men were arrested in the Ugandan town Oyam after they were “caught in the act”, according to police, but it is unclear if and when they have to appear in court. A police spokesman gave the impression that the two suspects had been subjected to medical tests to prove that sexual contact had occurred. Such procedures are not only scientifically dubious, but also a gross violation of the right to privacy.
These harrowing tales seem to confirm that the witch hunt against LGBT people in Uganda Hivos feared and warned about last February is now a reality. Uganda has been the scene of a series of violent incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in recent years; now the legal system is pitching in to help.