Last week, Uganda’s Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa popped the lid on the widely known, but rarely talked about, issue of homosexuality in Uganda, saying schools have been the target of pro-gay activists seeking acceptability in the country. He directed the government to probe the issue and “save the children” as schools open.
His comments came after a parent said in a video post that her son had been sexually abused by a teacher in one of the prestigious schools in the country.
The Speaker, Anita Among, directed the Education Committee of Parliament to investigate schools suspected of “promoting” LGBTQ rights.
The First Lady and Education minister Janet Museveni and the Anglican Church, under which many schools fall, have constituted teams to investigate the matter.
‘Recruited’ with promises
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a local NGO, has been accused of promoting homosexuality in schools. A boy recently released a video detailing how he had been “recruited” with promises of between $1,000 and $1,500 to record gay porn videos in an upscale residential and business suburb of Kampala.
Dr Frank Mugisha, the head of SMUG, rejected the youth’s claims, saying: “You cannot recruit anyone into the gay movement in Uganda. That boy was lying. He was just encouraged to come out by churches which are also pushing their agenda.”
The NGO Bureau under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is mandated to regulate NGO activities in the country banned SMUG in August last year, citing their failure to register with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau. But Dr Mugisha says their registration was blocked by officials at the registration bureau in 2012, which rejected the name.
No requisite quorum
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was passed by Uganda’s 9th Parliament on December 20, 2013, and described by the then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga as the best Christmas gift to Ugandans, was annulled by the country’s Constitutional Court a few months after President Yoweri Museveni signed it in February 2014. The court ruled that the law was passed without the requisite quorum and was therefore illegal.
Despite the court ruling, homosexuality remains illegal in the country, according to Section 145 of the Penal Code Act cap 120, which was introduced by the British colonialists in June 1950. The code outlawed any unnatural sexual acts and prescribes life imprisonment on conviction.
But Dr Mugisha says they have been working with government agencies, including the police and the Health ministry to assist their members to access health services.
It is the desire for equal treatment that forced an NGO in Kasese, western Uganda, to facilitate a by-law through the local government, to have their members included among the vulnerable groups, together with children, sex workers, truck drivers, who should get special treatment on HIV/Aids.
In a September 16, 2022 statutory instrument, the municipal council passed the by-laws to provide for enforcement of human rights and freedoms of the marginalised population as well as increasing access to HIV/TB services in Kasese Municipality.
Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Mr Tayebwa termed it a “malicious by-law”.
“I want to alert you that attempts are being made from all corners because the money from these groups seems to be a lot and, also, this is not a simple fight. They are going to target us but we must stand firm,” he told Parliament last week.
Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi says no one implements a by-law unless it has gone through the Justice ministry. “If the district passed it on their own, they will have to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), an NGO operating in Uganda, said they backed the by-law. The group is accused of paying local leaders during the council session.
Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF, said they promote human rights for all, especially access to HIV and TB treatment, adding that their organisation is a legal aid clinic working with all state agencies such as Parliament and the police.
Before the dust settled on the Kasese by-law controversy, in Entebbe town a structure painted in “gay pride colours” was unveiled in the Children’s Park close to State House Entebbe.