Stephen Okello, Executive Director of Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau), Friday announced that the NGO Bureau had halted Sexual Minorities Uganda’s (SMUG) operations. Okello claimed that SMUG was operating illegally because it was not registered with the NGO Bureau or the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), in violation of the NGO Act 2016.
According to Okello’s statement:
The NGO Bureau also engaged a number of stakeholders that SMUG was partnering with and established that the partners were not aware that SMUG was operating illegally. It is against this background that the NGO Bureau has taken the decision to halt the operations of SMUG with immediate effect.
SMUG responded to the suspension, claiming it attempted to register with the URSB in 2012 and was denied over its name being “undesirable.” SMUG went on to state:
The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens.
Uganda is a deeply religious country with a complex history of discrimination against its LGBTQ+ citizens. In 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed, which criminalized sexual activity between those of the same sex. It penalized “the offense of homosexuality” and “aggravated homosexuality,” with the punishments being life in prison and death, respectively. The bill was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014. It was later nullified by the Supreme Court of Uganda, in August 2014, on procedural grounds.