Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

Uganda: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; legal recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment (2005-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 23 February 2007
Citation / Document Symbol UGA102197.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Uganda: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; legal recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment (2005-2006), 23 February 2007, UGA102197.E, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Treatment of homosexuals

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda (BBC 8 Sept. 2006; AI 29 Aug. 2006; US 8 Mar. 2006). Under Section 140 of the country's criminal code, "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (HRW 8 Sept. 2006; Sodomy Laws 31 July 2005). Section 141 of the criminal code punishes "attempts at carnal knowledge" with up to seven years in jail, while Section 143 criminalizes public or private acts of "gross indecency" with a penalty of up to five years in jail (ibid.; see also HRW 8 Sept. 2006). Although prosecutions are reportedly rare (Sodomy Laws 31 July 2005), human rights sources indicate that members of the lesbian and gay community are "stigmatized" and "harassed" by the Ugandan authorities (HRW 8 Sept. 2006; AI 29 Aug. 2006; IGLHRC 12 Oct. 2005).

In September 2005, Uganda's parliament passed a bill to amend the country's constitution, making same-sex marriages illegal (ibid.; HRW 8 Sept. 2006). Cited in a 12 July 2005 Human Rights Watch (HRW) article, the Director of HRW's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program states that "Uganda already imposes draconian prison sentences on people who engage in homosexual conduct ... New criminal penalties against people who dare to marry can only have one purpose: to codify prejudice against same-sex couples." Information on the penalty for same-sex marriage in Uganda or on whether prosecutions for same-sex marriage have taken place could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In September 2006, an article in the European gay news service Pink News reported that Uganda's prime minister supports the "Anglican church's negative view of homosexuality" (4 Sept. 2006). According to the article, during an assembly of the Church of the Province of Uganda, the Prime Minister stated,

There is a lot of international pressure for Uganda to back down from its position on marriage between one man and one woman. Importing values from the western world is inimical to our culture. I am glad to mention that the Church of Uganda, the Catholic Church and the Muslims joined hands to resist homosexuality in Africa. (Pink News 4 Sept. 2006)

Human rights and news sources consulted report on the existence of anti-LGBT attitudes in the press in Uganda (HRW 8 Sept. 2006; ibid. 12 July 2005; SMUG 22 Aug. 2006). According to a 12 July 2005 HRW article, a writer from Uganda's government-owned New Vision suggested that

[t]he police should visit the holes mentioned in the press, spy on the perverts, arrest and prosecute them. Relevant government departments must outlaw or restrict websites, magazines, newspapers and television channels promoting immorality – including homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography, etc.

In August 2006, the Ugandan newspaper The Red Pepper published a list of first names and occupations of 45 alleged homosexual men (BBC 8 Sept. 2006; HRW 8 Sept. 2006; see also AI 29 Aug. 2006 and SMUG 22 Aug. 2006). The newspaper reportedly had plans to also publish a list of alleged lesbians (HRW 8 Sept. 2006; BTM 6 Sept. 2006); however, information regarding whether or not this list was published could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In a 29 August 2006 public statement, Amnesty International (AI) condemns the publication of the men's names stating that it "encourages discrimination and puts those named at a high risk of violence" (29 Aug. 2006). The organization further states that it is "concerned that those named may be arrested on the basis of their alleged sexual orientation and could face humiliating and degrading treatment in custody" (AI 29 Aug. 2006). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), men who were identified in The Red Pepper publication have been "threatened" and "harassed" (HRW 8 Sept. 2006; see also AI 29 Aug. 2006). In a 6 September 2006 article, Behind the Mask (BTM), "a non-profit media organisation publishing a news website intended for gay and lesbian affairs in Africa" (BTM n.d.a), similarly notes that the men whose names were listed in The Red Pepper have been "undergoing discomfort, and are living in fear of being arrested and ... ostracized by [their] families or even sacked from their jobs."

In a 2 August 2005 public statement, Amnesty International indicates that "[a] climate of hostility and prejudice against members of the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT)] community persists in Uganda." Human rights sources consulted also indicate that members and supporters of the gay and lesbian community have been "targeted" by the Ugandan authorities (AI 29 Aug. 2006; IGLHRC 12 Oct. 2005). In October 2004, Uganda's minister of information showed public support for police action against an LGBT organization at Makerere University (ibid.; HRW 8 Sept. 2006). In February 2005, Uganda banned the staging of The Vagina Monologues, an American play the Ugandan government claimed "promotes illegal acts of unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution" (ibid. 12 July 2005; IGLHRC 12 Oct. 2005). In July 2005, local government officials raided the house of the Chairperson of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) (ibid.; AI 29 Aug. 2006; ibid. 2 Aug. 2005). The officials were reportedly searching for "incriminating evidence" relating to SMUG's activities (ibid.; see also IGLHRC 12 Oct. 2005).

According to a 17 March 2006 Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) article, "[m]ost Ugandans prefer to pretend sexual minorities do no exist at all, a belief that permeates all levels of society, regardless of class or level of education" (UN 17 Mar. 2006). The article further notes that the denial of the existence of homosexuality in Uganda has led to discrimination against homosexuals in the country's national HIV/AIDS program (ibid.; see also HRW Mar. 2005, 57). The national program reportedly promotes abstinence until heterosexual marriage and does not provide accurate information to young people who are LGBT (ibid.).

Legal recourse and protection

Information on legal recourse available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to a 4 September 2006 Pink News article, "there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people in Uganda."

Sources consulted indicate that there are several organizations working in Uganda to protect the rights of the LGBT community (SMUG n.d.; BTM n.d.b). Behind The Mask (BTM) lists the following LGBT organizations on its Web site: Freedom and Roam Uganda, Gay Uganda, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Uganda and Musla-Uganda (ibid.). Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is another LGBT organization, which describes itself as "the umbrella organization of all homosexual organizations in Uganda" (SMUG n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 29 August 2006. "Uganda: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People Targeted." (AFR 59/006/2006) [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]
_____ . 2 August 2005. "Uganda: Intimidation of Lesbian and Gay Activists." (AFR 59/003/2005) [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

Behind The Mask (BTM). 6 September 2006. Musa Ngubane. "Redpepper Shifts Focus to Lesbians Now." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]
_____ . N.d.a. "Who We Are." [Accessed 16 Jan. 2007]
_____ . N.d.b. "Uganda." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 8 September 2006. "Ugandan 'Gay' Name List Condemned." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 8 September 2006. "Uganda: Press Homophobia Raises Fears of Crackdown." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]
_____ . 12 July 2005. "Uganda: Same-Sex Marriage Ban Deepens Repression." [Accessed 17 Jan. 2007]
_____ . March 2005. Vol. 17, No. 4 (A). The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda. [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 12 October 2005. "ICLHRC Condemns Uganda's Targeting of Lesbians and Gay Men; Calls Ban on Same-Sex Marriage 'Legislative Overkill'." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

Pink News [London]. 4 September 2006. "Ugandan Prime Minister Anti-Gay Church View." [Accessed 17 Jan. 2007]

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). 22 August 2006. "SMUG Official Statement on the Red Pepper Gay List Published on the 8th August." (International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA, Web site) [Accessed 25 Aug. 2006]
_____ . N.d. "Sexual Minorities Uganda." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

Sodomy Laws. 31 July 2005. "Uganda." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

United Nations (UN). 17 March 2006. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). Plus News. "Uganda: Stuck in the Closet: Gays Left Out of HIV/AIDS Strategy." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Uganda." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 11 Jan. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: The Advocate [Los Angeles], AllAfrica, The Daily Monitor [Kampala], European Country of Origin Information Network (,, Gay Times [London],, International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA), United Kingdom Home Office, United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld