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LGBT community raided in Uganda over social distancing

Last Updated Apr 1, 2020 at 10:28 am EST

KAMPALA, Uganda — A gay rights leader in Uganda says 20 members of the local LGBT community have been detained after police raided their shelter and accused them of violating coronavirus-related social distancing measures.

“It is evident that they were arrested because of their homosexuality,” Frank Mugisha said Wednesday, expressing concern for their safety as “some of them are on AIDS medication.” Gay sex is criminalized in Uganda.

Mugisha said the 20 were among 23 people accused of violating the president’s orders during a police raid on Sunday. Three were freed because of ill health, he said.

Mugisha said the house in Kyengera, a town near Kampala, is a known shelter for LGBT people seeking community as well as treatment for AIDS. He said the house has previously been targeted by the police.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ugandan police are enforcing measures imposed by President Yoweri Museveni as part of efforts to stop local transmission of the coronavirus. The East African nation has reported 44 cases, most of them imported.

Mugisha said attacks on homosexuals often go unreported in Uganda, and he warned that hate crimes targeting homosexuals could rise amid the pandemic.

There have been efforts in Uganda in recent years to enact harsher penalties targeting homosexuals, including death by hanging. Many Ugandans believe homosexuality is imported from the West.

An anti-gay law enacted in 2014 was later overturned by a panel of judges amid international pressure and threats of aid cuts. In enacting that law, Museveni accused “arrogant and careless Western groups,” without naming names, of trying to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality.

According to Human Rights Watch, 32 African nations have various laws criminalizing homosexuality.

Rodney Muhumuza, The Associated Press

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