Uganda’s government shut down operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a non-governmental organization for LGBTQ rights, accusing it of operating illegally in the country, according to a statement from the government.
Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) under the Ministry of Internal Affairs said Friday the group operated without being registered in the NGO Bureau, adding that the group tried to register its name in 2012 but was rejected “on grounds of being undesirable.”
SMUG issued a statement Friday following the government announcement saying, “This is a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements.”
It added: “The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operation that seeks 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 treating Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens.”
The group also called on the government to “uphold their obligations to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.”
Uganda made headlines in 2009 when it introduced the anti-homosexuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. The country’s lawmakers passed a bill in 2014, but they replaced the death penalty clause with a proposal for life in prison. That law was ultimately struck down, but some lawmakers have sought to reintroduce it.
In 2014, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, told CNN in an exclusive interview that sexual behavior is a matter of choice and gay people are “disgusting.”
Uganda is a socially conservative country, and in 2014 it introduced the Anti-Pornography Act which included a “mini-skirt ban.” In recent years the law has resulted in the arrest of revenge porn victims.
In May 2019, Uganda’s “ex-gay” community petitioned Uganda’s parliament to bring back the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill to “create awareness on sexual orientation,” according to a statement on the parliament website.
Ugandan activists have in the past told CNN the LGBTQ community faces arrests, attacks and persecution.