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Uganda official: government not discriminating based on sexual orientation

Ugandan Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo said [press release] last week that no "government official is bent to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others." The statement came only a day after the government had announced [JURIST report] that it will ban at least 38 non-governmental organizations that are accused of promoting gay rights and recruiting children to homosexuality. Lokodo alleged that those organizations are receiving international support in their conversion of children into homosexuality, which is criminalized in the country. The change in position was caused by the heavy criticism [WP report] by the international community and several human rights groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] which have condemned [press release] the Ugandan government for violating "fundamental rights to speech, assembly and association, as well as to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention." Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] echoed [AI report] the CCR by calling last week's police raids illegal. Lodoko had ordered the police [EHAHRDP report] last week to break up a meeting organized by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) [advocacy website] in Kampala that was specifically for the gay community in the region. Lawyers and activists brought a lawsuit [NPR report] against Lodoko for his alleged violation of Ugandan citizens' rights to speech, assembly and association by shutting down an LGBT workshop by advocacy group Freedom and Roam, declaring it illegal and trying to arrest the leader. The case is to start on Monday.

Uganda and many other African countries have legislation in place that criminalizes homosexuality. International human rights groups have continuously called on the Ugandan government to end this practice. In March the CCR filed [JURIST report] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; case website] on behalf of the Ugandan rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) [advocacy website] against Scott Lively, a US pastor with Abiding Truth Ministries [advocacy website], for enabling the anti-gay movement in Uganda in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website]. A month earlier Uganda had reintroduced [JURIST report] legislation that would make certain homosexual activities punishable by death.

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