Current Affairs

Gay campaigners storm AIDS conference in Uganda

Tony Grew June 4, 2008
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Three people have been arrested after they forced their way into an international conference about HIV/AIDS prevention in Ugnada organised by the UN.

Earlier this week the head of Uganda’s AIDS commission said that gay people are driving up the number of infections in the country, but said they would not be targeted with prevention work.

Kihumuro Apuuli claimed a lack of money prevents him from giving any attention or treatment to gay people.

“Two young women and a man stormed the conference venue uninvited and we had to arrest them,” police spokesman Byakagaba Abas told Reuters.

The meeting was organised by an international group of countries and organisation, among them the US, the World Bank, the UN.

More than a million of Uganda’s 27 million people are already HIV+.

Mr Apuuli, chairman of the Uganda AIDS Commission, said on Monday:

“Gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time.”

Government officials have regularly threatened and harassed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

Section 140 of Uganda’s penal code carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for homosexual conduct, while Section 141 punishes ‘attempts’ at carnal knowledge with a maximum of seven years of imprisonment.

Section 143 punishes acts of “gross indecency” with up to five years in prison, while a sodomy conviction carries a penalty of 14 years to life imprisonment.

Last year James Nsaba Buturo, the country’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, said the government is committed to stopping LGBT people “trying to impose a strange, ungodly, unhealthy, unnatural, and immoral way of life on the rest of our society.”

There has been rising tension in the country over gay and lesbian rights. Trans people are also targeted by police and regularly subject to abuse and harassment.

In August 2007 activists in spoke out about the prejudice LGBT people face in the country.

30 people gave a press conference drawing attention to the state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia they face every day.

They called themselves the “homosexual children of God” and demanded that attacks on LGBT people stop.

Three months ago the former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu joined 120 Christian and Jewish leaders in a call to the government of Uganda to stop homophobia in the country.

In 2005 Uganda became the first country in the world to introduce laws banning same-sex marriage.

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