Ugandan authorities suspend prominent LGBTQ rights group

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan authorities have suspended the work of a prominent LGBTQ rights group, calling it an illegal entity.

Since 2004, Uganda’s LGBTQ community has been the East African country’s foremost support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Its leader, Frank Muguisa, said on Saturday that authorities overseeing the NGO had advised him to suspend his activities, saying his group lacked the necessary documentation.

“It means the life-saving work we do is put on hold. We cannot protect and support vulnerable LGBT people,” he said. “The background, of course, is homophobia and transphobia.”

In a statement, the NGO Bureau said the organisation needed to stop working “immediately” as it was neither a company nor an NGO.

The case against sexual minorities in Uganda stems from the organization’s name itself. The Companies Registry refused to register the name, saying it was inappropriate. The judge agreed, Mugisha said, and the group’s appeal to a higher court is pending judgment.

He said he decided to run it as an “association” rather than an NGO due to years of hostility towards his group.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under colonial-era laws that criminalize sex “against the natural order” and LGBTQ people face widespread discrimination.

Some Ugandan officials have urged tough new legislation after a panel of judges struck down an anti-gay law enacted by President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 amid international condemnation.

The law, which was invalidated by lawmakers at a meeting lacking a quorum, provides for the maximum life sentence for individuals convicted of same-sex activity.

The original version of the bill, first introduced in 2009, included the death penalty for so-called serious homosexual acts.

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