Uganda’s Escalating LGBT Crackdown Feels Eerily Familiar

Uganda’s Escalating LGBT Crackdown Feels Eerily Familiar
A transgender Ugandan poses in front of a rainbow flag during the third annual LGBT Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda, Aug. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Rebecca Vassie).

KAMPALA, Uganda—Revelers at Ram Bar, a gay-friendly establishment in Kampala, were dancing and drinking beer late on a Sunday night, when the police arrived. Shouting, officers rounded up the confused crowd and took 120 people into custody.

Sixty-seven of them were soon charged with “creating a common nuisance”; according to Patricia Kimera, a lawyer for the group, they could face up to a year in prison if convicted. Activists describe the arrests and subsequent charges as a direct attack on members of Uganda’s already marginalized gay community.

“This is intimidation,” Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a leading LGBT advocacy organization, said of the Ram Bar raid. In a statement, Human Rights Watch called on Ugandan authorities to drop the charges. “The arrests were completely arbitrary and motivated by homophobia and transphobia,” Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher for the organization, said in an interview. “It is clearly targeting the LGBT community.”

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