Thursday was the third night of Pride events in Uganda, whose government passed a law making some “homosexual acts” punishable by death. The event was a pageant to crown Mr., Ms. and Mx. Pride 2016. The police claim they were told that the event was a gay wedding which they had not been informed about ahead of time, which is illegal, and that is why they raided. The two previous pride nights had taken place without incident because the police had been informed about them ahead of time.
Reportedly, police locked the club’s gates, arrested at least 16 people and detained nearly 500 others for almost two hours. Witness accounts also state that the police assaulted and humiliated people while they were being detained. Witnesses stated that the police groped and fondled detainees as well and that they were particularly targeting transgender people. One person, trying to escape the invading police, jumped from a 6th floor window and is in the hospital in critical condition.
Human Rights groups report that this incident is representative of escalating police violence in the country. Police have been targeting the media and political oppositions as well as other groups, like the LGBTQ community. The leader of the group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, condemned the raid for violating Ugandans’ right to peacefully and lawfully assemble, which he says people at this event were doing. Human rights groups are calling for the US and other governments to condemn the illegal and violent actions against the LGBTQ community in Uganda, and to challenge President Museveni to keep his police force in check and on the right side of the law.
Life for LGBTQ Ugandans is hard enough without the threat of state sanctioned violence at the hands of police. Queer Ugandans regularly face violence, discrimination, blackmail, bigotry and extortion.