Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) • Chapter Four Uganda • Health GAP • Human Rights Watch • Uganda Pride Committee • Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
(Kampala, August 5, 2016) – Ugandan police unlawfully raided an event late in the evening of August 4, 2016, the third night of a week of Ugandan LGBTI Pride celebrations, brutally assaulting participants, seven human rights groups said today.
The event was a pageant in Kampala’s Club Venom to crown Mr/Ms/Mx Uganda Pride. Police claimed that they had been told a “gay wedding” was taking place and that the celebration was “unlawful” because police had not been informed of the event. However, police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events, on August 2 and 3, were conducted without incident.
“We strongly condemn these violations of Ugandans’ rights to peaceful association and assembly,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer and executive director at Chapter Four Uganda. “These brutal actions by police are unacceptable and must face the full force of Ugandan law.”
The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating and humiliating people; taking pictures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans and threatening to publish them; and confiscating cameras. Witnesses reported that the police assaulted many participants, in particular transgender women and men, in some cases groping and fondling them. One person jumped from a sixth-floor window to avoid police abuse and is in a hospital in critical condition.
By approximately 1:20 a.m., all those arrested had been released without charge from the Kabalagala Police Station. This episode of police brutality did not happen in isolation, the groups said. It comes at a time of escalating police violence targeting media, independent organizations, and the political opposition.
“Any force by Ugandan police targeting a peaceful and lawful assembly is outrageous,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who was among those arrested. “The LGBTI community stands with all Ugandan civil society movements against police brutality.”
“The Ugandan government should condemn violent illegal actions by police targeting the LGBTI community and all Ugandans,” said Asia Russell at Health GAP. “The US and all governments should challenge President Museveni to intervene immediately and hold his police force accountable.”
LGBTI Ugandans routinely face violence, discrimination, bigotry, blackmail, and extortion. The unlawful government raid on a spirited celebration displays the impunity under which Ugandan police are operating. “The state has a duty to protect all citizens’ enjoyment of their rights, including the right to peacefully assemble to celebrate Pride Uganda,” said Hassan Shire, executive director at Defend Defenders. “A swift and transparent investigation should be conducted into last night’s unacceptable demonstration of police brutality.”
Activists called on the governments to immediately and publicly condemn the raid and to take swift disciplinary action against those responsible for the gross violations of rights and freedoms. The organizers said that Pride Uganda celebrations will continue as planned, with a celebration on August 6.
“Our pride and resilience remain steadfast despite these horrible and shameful actions by Ugandan police,” said Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda.
“Celebrating with LGBTI people and demonstrating solidarity in calling for their rights to be respected is as basic a show of free expression and association under human rights law as you can get,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ugandan authorities should not only refrain from trying to stop such activities, but they have binding legal obligations to ensure others do not interfere in this fundamental exercise of basic rights.”
For live updates on this situation in Uganda, follow Health GAP on twitter.
For more information, please contact:
In Kampala, for Chapter Four Uganda, Clare Byarugaba: +256-774-068-663; or [email protected] Twitter: @clarekabale
In Nairobi, for Human Rights Watch, Neela Ghoshal (English, French): +254-729-466-685 (mobile); or [email protected] Twitter: @NeelaGhoshal
Both last week and this week, Health GAP staff and allies have been in Johannesburg, South Africa for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Country Operational Plan (COP) Reviews. These two rounds of three-day intensive meetings with PEPFAR staff, representatives from country governments, civil society, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Health Organization, will determine how billions of dollars in funding for HIV treatment and prevention will be spent between 2016 and 2017 in some of the highest burden countries and communities around the world.Read more
For Immediate Release
World Bank: Safeguards Essential for Uganda Loan
Urgent Need to End Discrimination in Health Care
(Kampala, September 24, 2014) – The World Bank should not proceed with a US$90 million loan for strengthening the health care sector in Uganda without enforceable steps to end discrimination in care for marginalized groups, 16 Ugandan and international organizations said today in a letter to World Bank President Jim Kim. Health care for women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people should be included in non-discrimination measures, the groups said.
In February 2014, shortly after President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Kim announced the delay of the Uganda loan out of concern that it would support discrimination in Uganda’s health sector. He said that discrimination is bad for economies. In August, Uganda’s Constitutional Court nullified the law on procedural grounds. But the government immediately filed an appeal to the Supreme Court and convened a committee to consider whether the law should be returned to parliament for reconsideration.
“Even with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act no longer enforceable, discrimination is alive and well in health services for many groups including LGBTI people,” said Moses Kimbugwe, program director at Spectrum Uganda, a Ugandan human rights organization. “It is vitally important for the World Bank to work with the government of Uganda to get serious about fighting discrimination – starting with clear conditions attached to this $90 million health loan.”
Beyond increasing prison sentences for same-sex conduct – already criminal under Uganda’s colonial-era, anti-sodomy provisions – the new law endangered public health work by criminalizing “promotion of homosexuality.” For example, police raided a well-respected health clinic and medical research facility in April, accusing the clinic of conducting “unethical research” and “recruiting homosexuals.” The law lacked any definition of what behavior or speech might constitute “promotion.”
The World Bank’s $90 million loan would assist Uganda’s health ministry with a funding shortfall for the renovation of certain health care facilities.
The Ugandan government has not provided any enforceable assurances that it will work to prevent discrimination in health services or even monitor discrimination by health care workers, the groups said. The Health Ministry issued a non-legally-binding directive to health workers, which defines the care of LGBTI people as an “ethical dilemma” for healthcare workers – rather than a professional obligation and a fundamental human right. It does not require health workers to provide medical care and treatment without bias. Nor does it properly guarantee confidentiality to patients who are at risk of prosecution if, for example, a health worker reports them to police for same-sex conduct, which remains a criminal offense in Uganda.
In July Museveni signed the HIV Prevention and Control Act, which could further fuel fear and discrimination. The law criminalizes intentional HIV transmission, attempted transmission, and behavior that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status. The law also allows for mandatory HIV testing for all pregnant women. It allows medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others, contrary to international best practices and violating fundamental human rights.
Women tested against their will or whose HIV status may be revealed against their will may be exposed to potential physical violence from partners who fear or blame them for infection. The well-documented impact of such punitive measures is to drive people away from services.
In the loan, the groups said, the World Bank should require the government to prohibit discrimination in healthcare delivery, including on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity and all other grounds articulated under international law. It should require the government to respect patient confidentiality, privacy, and informed consent to all treatment, including fully informing patients of the risks involved with medical procedures and medication. The government should also guarantee that it will not interfere with any independent group or other third-party monitoring of health institutions.
The World Bank should fund activities to promote all patients’ rights, including funding patient advocates and legal counsel for people who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality, or other abuses in health settings and training for Ugandan health workers to respect these rights. It should also fund robust supervision and monitoring, including by independent organizations, to identify instances of discrimination.
The World Bank should review the new HIV law, in close collaboration with Ugandan groups and independent experts, and publicly outline measures it will take to ensure that Uganda’s health system is strengthened and HIV objectives are achieved, given the discriminatory environment. The bank should publicly and privately at all levels urge the government to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices, emphasizing the importance of non-discrimination for health and development and emphasize that the government’s lack of progress in this area will increasingly call into question aspects of the government’s relationship with the World Bank.
“This loan to the health sector should signal an end to ‘business as usual’ between the World Bank and Uganda,” said Asia Russell, director of international policy at Health GAP, an international health advocacy organization. “Discrimination in health services violates human rights and puts already vulnerable people at greater risk. The World Bank has a duty to ensure the Ugandan government invests in mitigating the effects of discrimination in the health services.”
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Uganda, please:
For more information contact:
In Kampala, for Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha (English): +256-772-616-062
In Kampala, for Spectrum Uganda, Moses Kimbugwe (English): +256-782-854-391; or [email protected]
In Kampala, for Uganda Health and Sciences Press Association, Kikonyogo Kivumbi (English): +256-752-628-406; or [email protected]
In Kampala, for Health GAP, Asia Russell (English): +256-776-574-729 or +1 267 475 2645; [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @asia_ilse
In Washington, DC, for Human Rights Watch, Maria Burnett (English): +1-917-379-1696 (mobile); or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @MariaHRWAfrica
In Washington, DC, for Human Rights Watch, Jessica Evans (English): +1-917-930-7763 (mobile); or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @evans_jessica
"The key issue with Cipla supplying hepatitis B medicines is that these are the same medicines where we are not getting a competitive price," says Asia Russell, Executive Director of a Civil Society Organization - Health GAP (Global Access Project).
She blames Cipla's monopoly. "Uganda needs a sustainable supply of generic treatment, but the medicines must be competitively priced," she says.
She adds: "The demand of a national business for a subsidy is not on the same level as the need of people with HIV for access to life saving treatment. The government shouldn't pit the two demands against each other as if they were equivalent".
Health GAP and its partners are fighting for an end to the AIDS epidemic in Uganda, through advocating for acceleration of HIV treatment—with earlier, faster initiation—evidence based HIV prevention, urgent scale up of “Option B+,” and an end to deadly exclusion of men who have sex with men and other marginalized groups—all strategies that will help Uganda save lives, halt new infections, and cut costs. While in the past Uganda was been lauded as a global HIV success story, Uganda is now one of a small minority of countries with generalized, mature HIV epidemics that are reporting rising HIV prevalence. In Uganda, prevalence has risen from 6.4 to 7.3% between 2006 and 2012 and incidence is also estimated by Ministry of Health to have increased between 2005 and 2011. Importantly, Uganda is the only PEPFAR “Focus Country” reporting rising HIV incidence—all other PEPFAR focus countries have consistently reported declines in incidence as well as prevalence in recent years.
One reason for these troubling trends is the fact that Uganda for years moved too slowly in scaling up lifesaving HIV treatment. In 2010 Uganda made headlines when PEPFAR pursued a disastrous policy in the country, of capping new HIV treatment enrollees--Health GAP helped uncover evidence of this decision, written in a memo to PEPFAR implementers in Uganda. The example of Uganda was the beginning of what Health GAP learned was a more widespread effort to slow down the scale up of life saving, high impact interventions, particularly HIV treatment. Health GAP wrote a letter to the Obama Administration calling for immediate course correction in the response; international protest and international media attention (see more media: here and here) also increased attention on the consequences of the U.S. government position. Thanks to this pressure, the Administration reversed course in Uganda, and then in 2011 committed to doubling the pace of treatment enrollment to reach 6 million people on treatment by 2013.
Uganda has also resisted investments in evidence based prevention—serodiscordant couples, sex workers, men who have sex with men and fishing communities have disproportionately high prevalence rates, but the national response does not target them with evidence based interventions. Advocacy by Health GAP and others has helped draw attention to this crisis—in September 2012 Health GAP and 13 other civil society organizations released a ‘Shadow Report’ during the Joint Annual Review of the AIDS Response, offering a 10 point prescription for change to end the epidemic in Uganda.
In the lead up to the 2011 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, Health GAP and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS East Africa (ICWEA) hit the campaign trail and challenged candidates to commit to bold but feasible promises to tackle the epidemic. Through community mobilization, smart press work, and showing up at every possible candidate appearance, 4 of 5 of the major Presidential candidates pledged their public commitment to a civil society action plan against AIDS.
In 2011 Health GAP challenged the slow pace of treatment scale up in Uganda and the lack of investment in high impact prevention interventions by PEPFAR, sending a letter to AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby calling for a massive shift in priorities and investments in the PEPFAR Country Operational Plan (COP) for Uganda for 2012. The 2012 COP was drastically rewritten, and now includes support for major treatment acceleration, Option B+, and increased investment in men who have sex with men, sex workers, and other marginalized groups.
Health GAP also advocates for an end to preventable maternal mortality—which kills 16 women daily in the country—as a member of the Coordinating Group of the Civil Society Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality in Uganda. We support groundbreaking strategic litigation in the judiciary on maternal mortality, Petition 16 of 2011, filed by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). We have fought for major increases in recruitment of professional health workers, with an increase in their financial and non-financial remuneration, resulting in a victory in 2012, with a commitment by Parliament and the Executive to invest 49.5 billion shillings ($20 million) in recruiting 6,172 new professional health workers, with more than a doubling of the pay of doctors in Health Center IVs. This is more than a 25% increase in the number of professional health workers on staff.
Health GAP collaborates with LGBTI movements, fighting for an end to deadly exclusion and discrimination by advocating against the Anti Homosexuality Bill and working for a national AIDS Response that reflects evidence and epidemiology in Uganda. On Human Rights Day, December 10 2012, Health GAP worked with CEHURD and 100 other civil society organizations to support CEHURD in filling an urgent appeal with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, asking that he launch an investigation into the likely health impacts of the Anti Homosexuality Bill, and that he inform the Government of Uganda of resultant violations of international human rights law if the were to become law.
Asia Russell, Health GAP’s Executive Director, is working on the ground in Uganda with Health GAP. To learn more about this work, please contact [email protected].
 PEPFAR Blueprint for an AIDS Free Generation, 2012. P. 10.
 Angola, Mozambique, Uganda are the only countries in this category. See WHO: Global HIV/AIDS Response, Epidemic Update and Health Sector Progress Towards Universal Access, Progress Report, 2011. p. 12-17.
 PEPFAR Focus Countries have received the highest levels of US government prevention, care and treatment funding since PEPFAR was started in 2003. They are: Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.