Uganda bans prominent LGBT rights group

A prominent non-governmental organisation (NGO) that advocates for LGBT rights has been banned by the Uganda government.

Sexual Minorities Uganda’s (SMUG) operations were halted with immediate effect for “operating illegally” in the East African country, Stephen Okello, who heads a government agency that regulates NGOs, said in a statement shared with Reuters on Saturday.

They said that SMUG had failed to register its name with the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) properly.

The group, however, criticised the order calling it a “clear witch hunt” by the government against LGBT Ugandans.

“This is a clear witch hunt rooted in systematic homophobia, fuelled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements,” BBC quoted SMUG’s director Frank Mugisha, who is a gay Ugandan activist, as saying.

He slammed the government for treating Uganda’s LGBT members as second-class citizens and accused the officials of trying to erase their existence completely.

Homosexual relationships are illegal in Uganda, and they are a punishable offence. A person charged for “unnatural offences” is punished with up to life in prison.

Earlier, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been ruling since 1986, had described homosexuality in Uganda as an example of the West’s “social imperialism” in Africa.

In a 2016 interview to CNN, he called gay people “disgusting.”

The reason to ban the operations of the advocacy group stems from SMUG’s name itself.

The NGO acknowledged in a statement that it had tried to register with authorities in 2012, but the application was rejected because SMUG’s full name was considered “undesirable.”

Smug, since its establishment in 2004, has campaigned for LGBT rights in Uganda by promoting access to health services and supporting members of the community to live openly.

The action against SMUG also comes in the wake of a series of campaign run by it the NGO which as vocally criticised anti-gay speeches delivered by Ugandan politicians – including in the run up to national elections in 2021.

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