Gay relationships in the country are punishable by a life sentence in prison
The Ugandan government has banned a leading LGBT rights group in a move deemed a “clear witch hunt” by campaigners.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) was suspended on Friday by the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), part of the country’s internal affairs ministry.
A statement reads: “The NGO bureau has taken the decision to halt the operations of Smug with immediate effect.”
They said the suspended because the group failed to reigister its name with the NGO bureau properly.
Anti-gay and transphobic views are widespread in Uganda where gay relationships are illegal and are punishable by up to life in prison.
“This is a clear witch hunt rooted in systematic homophobia, fuelled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements,” said Smug’s director Frank Mugisha, who is a gay Ugandan activist.
“This means that the life-saving work we do is on hold. We can’t protect and support vulnerable LGBT people,” he added.
“The background, of course, is homophobia and transphobia.”
Authorities rejected Smug’s attempt to register in 2012 because they deemed the organisation’s name “undesirable,” according to the NGO bureau.
“The refusal to legalise Smug’s operations … was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” the non-profit said in a statement.
Since it was established in 2004, Smug has been campaigning for the rights of the LGBT community.
The group took to the courts in 2010 when they successfully petitioned a judge to order a newspaper to stop publishing the names and photos of gay men with the headlines “hang them”.
More recently in 2021, Smug had called out Ugandan politicians for monopolising homophobic sentiment to win votes through anti-gay speeches.
“The politicians are using the LGBT community as a scapegoat to gain support and win votes and it is fuelling homophobia,” Smug’s director told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the time.