First lesbian trial in history of Uganda’s anti-gay laws underway

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First set to face the first lesbian sex trial in the country’s history is set to proceed before a magistrate’s court this week after spending almost five months in jail for engaging in acts “against the order of nature.”

Twenty four -year-old Hilder charity Namujuzi who was once arrested  on charges of violating a colonial-era statute, known as the Penal Code Act, not the country’s more recent Anti-Homosexuality Act, which drew widespread condemnation from the international community upon its passage. The newer law is currently under appeal in Uganda’s Constitutional Court.

In previous cases, the prosecutor has dropped the charges due to a lack of evidence. This time, however, they say they have enough to proceed. If convicted, Charity could face life in prison.

Hilder charity Namujuzi was able to secure bail; the group Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) told this website, and now await the start of their trial on June 12.

 

Even though she faces charges under a decades-old law, human rights activists see their prosecution as a symptom of the country’s intensifying crackdown on its LGBT community. In the lead-up to the newer law’s passage and in its aftermath, anti-gay attitudes have spiked, often manifesting as violence toward LGBT or perceived-LGBT individuals.

A similar slew of homophobic attacks took place in Russia when that country passed a series of anti-gay measures, one banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” Though Russia’s law carries administrative sanctions, not criminal penalties as in Uganda, both seem to have the same effect of fueling vigilante violence and anti-LGBT sentiment.

In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act – formerly (and informally) known as the “Kill the Gays bill” – which strengthened penalties for same-sex activity. Under the new law, a person faces life imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage or engaging in so-called “aggravated homosexuality” – which includes having sex with a minor, while HIV-positive, or even just repeatedly with a person of the same gender.

President Obama called the new law “a step backward,” while Secretary of State John Kerry likened it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.

But it’s not just Uganda where LGBT people face persecution. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the death penalty exists in seven countries for those who engage in same-sex relationships, and approximately 70 more criminalize homosexuality in less severe ways. Once Brunei fully implements its new penal code, it will become the eighth nation with the death penalty for same-sex activity.

 

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