A SENIOR University of Sunderland (UoS) academic has helped expose brutal state-sponsored abuse of the homo/bi/trans community in Uganda – a nation which still treats homosexuality as a crime punishable by life imprisonment.
Global human rights organisation ReportOut, based here in the North East, has just reported on a year-long investigation which has exposed treatment ranging from police brutality and arrests to sexual attacks, mob violence and torture.
Working in close partnership with seven Ugandan SOGIESC (Sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics) organisations to document the lives of an often-hard-to-reach and voiceless population, ‘OUT in Uganda’ shines a light on their abuse, with the intention of holding the African state to its human rights obligations.
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 and arrests to 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.”
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.
Among the key findings of the investigation were:
- 60 per cent of SOGIESC Ugandans have been tortured
- 38 per cent report being attacked or threatened with sexual violence twice in the last 12 months, often with more than one perpetrator
- three quarters of SOGIESC Ugandans say 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, or suffering a homo/bi/transphobic reaction by the police
- over 40 per cnet 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’
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 per cent 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.”
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