KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan authorities have suspended the work of a prominent LGBTQ rights group, calling it an illegal entity.
Sexual Minorities Uganda has been the East African nation’s most prominent support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people since 2004.
Its leader, Frank Mugisha, said Saturday that authorities who oversee non-governmental organizations advised him to suspend activities, saying his group lacked needed documentation.
“This means that the life-saving work we do is on hold. We can’t protect and support vulnerable LGBT people,” he said. “The background, of course, is homophobia and transphobia.”
The NGO Bureau said in a statement that the group needed to stop work “with immediate effect” because it’s neither a company nor an NGO.
The case against Sexual Minorities Uganda stems from the group’s name itself. The registrar of companies declined to register that name, saying it was unsuitable. A judge agreed, and the group’s appeal to a higher court is awaiting judgement, Mugisha said.
He said that because of the hostility to his group over the years, he decided to run it as “an association” instead of an NGO.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex acts “against the order of nature,” and LGBTQ people face widespread discrimination.
Some Ugandan officials have urged tough new legislation after a panel of judges nullified an anti-gay law enacted by President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 amid international condemnation.
That law, invalidated because it had been passed by lawmakers during a session that lacked a quorum, prescribed punishments of up to life in prison for individuals convicted of engaging in same-sex activity.
The original version of that bill, first introduced in 2009, included the death penalty for what it called aggravated acts of homosexuality.