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Anti-gay law: Ugandan activist urges US help

28 February 2014, 10:26

Washington - A leading Ugandan gay rights activist met on Thursday with top state department officials to call for help in protecting gays after a tough new law was adopted in his country.

Frank Mugisha heads up the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), which campaigns for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"I want to see that the law that has been passed does not impact on the LGBT community and also that we get out something good out of this," Mugisha told AFP after meeting with the top US diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

"My major concern right now is safety for the LGBT community, because we're having newspapers name people and show their pictures."

On Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill into law according to which "repeat homosexuals" should be jailed for life. It also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to report on gays.

The move came despite fierce criticism from Western nations and key donors, including US President Barack Obama, who has warned that ties between Kampala and Washington would be damaged.

Mutual concerns

Calling the law "horrendous", Thomas-Greenfield said that Washington was "looking at what are the various levers that we may have to get the government to revisit this legislation."

"It not only takes away rights, but it seems to be encouraging violence against the LGBT community in Uganda and that is something that is not acceptable to us," she said in an interview.

Washington intends to use its ambassadors as a vanguard in fighting the spread of anti-gay legislation, as Secretary of State John Kerry noted that similar laws had been enacted in many places.

"From Nigeria to Russia to Iran, indeed in some 80 countries the world over, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their basic human dignity and undermine their safety," he said.

The Ugandan law "not only makes criminals of people for who they are, but punishes those who defend the human rights that are our universal birthright", Kerry added.

A state department official said Mugisha and Thomas-Greenfield, along with Acting Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Uzra Zeya, had discussed "mutual concerns" about safety and "how the US might respond to the law's enactment."



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