Human Rights campaigners are calling for more action following the results of a major report highlighting the extent of abuse, violence, prejudice and discrimination facing the Ugandan homo/bi/trans community.

From police brutality, arrests, sexual attacks, mob violence and torture, against the SOGIESC (Sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics) people, global human rights organisation ReportOut, based in North East England, has released its findings after a year-long study.

Working in close partnership with seven Ugandan SOGIESC organisations to document the lives of an often hard to reach and voiceless population, ‘OUT in Uganda’ shines a light on their lived experiences with the intention of holding the State to their human rights obligations.

Uganda is a largely conservative Christian country where homosexual sex is punishable by life imprisonment. Campaigners say existing laws are also used to discriminate against SOGIESC people, making it harder for them to get a job or promotion, rent housing or access health and education services.

The key findings of the report survey include:

  • over half (60%) of SOGIESC Ugandans have been tortured by another person(s)
  • 38% of respondents report that they have been attacked or threatened with sexual violence twice in the last 12 months, often with more than one perpetrator
  • three quarters of SOGIESC Ugandans state that Uganda is ‘very unsafe’
  • respondents often face arbitrary arrest, police brutality and when SOGIESC people are a victim of crime themselves, over half do not report it for fear of not being taken seriously by the police. This is due to a fear of homo/bi/transphobic reactions by the police
  • a significant number (over 40%) of SOGIESC Ugandans live with depression and many show trauma and symptoms of PTSD. The mental health of many SOGIESC people is very poor and a quarter report that their physical health is ‘getting worse’

University of Sunderland Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Chair of ReportOUT, Dr Drew Dalton, who gained ethical approval from the University in order to take part in this research, said: “With this prejudice and discrimination being so rife and uncontested by the state, it has led to SOGIESC people being deeply marginalised, isolated, brutally harmed and constructed into social pariahs. There are various forms of violence that also affect the everyday lives of many SOGIESC people which came out in the research, ranging from police brutality, arrests, sexual attacks, mob violence and even torture. These forms of violence come not only from the state, but from local communities, neighbourhoods and even family structures. There are few places of safety for many SOGIESC people.”

He added: “The right to a family, marriage, freedom from discrimination and a standard of living are all human rights enshrined within the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Uganda is a signatory of this. The Ugandan state must fulfil its obligations in this regard to allow these rights to be met and make the life of SOGIESC people in better shape than it is today.”

Lord Michael Cashman CBE, founder of Stonewall and Patron of the Pride Media Centre in Gateshead where ReportOut is headquartered, said: “This urgent and important report is evidence that discrimination and inequality against SOGIESC destroys people’s lives, their prospects, their mental health and enables them to be used by state institutions in an inhumane way.

“It is vital that we work with all partners to bring about real and lasting change for SOGIESC people ensuring that everyone is treated equally and that their human rights are respected regardless of difference.”

Amnesty UK Rainbow Network Committee, also added their voice, commenting: “ReportOut’s thorough and comprehensive new report outlines the persisting and rising trends of homo/transphobia in Uganda.

“With 61% of respondents being the victims of torture — one of the report’s alarming findings — the need for the government to offer greater protection of LGBTI people could not be more urgent. This report highlights the lived experience of LGBTI Ugandans and the pressing need for the government to ensure their safety, health, financial security, and access to housing.”

ReportOut makes the following recommendations:

  • SOGIESC Ugandans should not be weaponised as a threat to other Ugandans, either by government officials, media outlets or any other actors.
  • The right to property and housing must be vigorously enforced for SOGIESC Ugandans. Landlords must be stopped in their discrimination against SOGIESC people.
  • The right to have a family.
  • Employers must enact anti-discrimination policies which also protect SOGIESC people.
  • Uganda must ensure that the prohibition of torture and the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is implemented and adhered too.
  • Uganda should remedy the lack of police accountability and brutality in order to ensure the protection of SOGIESC people’s fundamental human rights.
  • SOGIESC Ugandan’s should not face arbitrary arrest.
  • Community and family-led harm, including mob violence, should be thoroughly investigated and dealt with by the police.
  • State departments and institutions need training which enables them to handle SOGIESC people with dignity, respect and mindful of their needs as citizens;
  • The mental health needs of SOGIESC Ugandans urgently need to be supported.

Dr Dalton concluded: “ReportOUT extends an invite to work together with the state and its bodies to ensure Uganda has a future in which SOGIESC people are safe and their human rights are respected.”

To read the full report click here