A Ugandan LGBTQI activist has been brutally murdered as the African nation appears to backpedal on its reintroduction of the “Kill The Gays” law.
According to a report issued from Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday, Brian Wasswa was killed in his home in the eastern Ugandan city of Jinja, a two-hour drive from the capital of Kampala on October 4. The report urges Ugandan Authorities to “thoroughly investigate the fatal attack”.
28-year-old Wasswa was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a short-handled garden hoe and was discovered lying unconscious in a pool of his blood.
While Wasswa initially survived the attack, he was unresponsive to treatment after neighbours rushed him to hospital.
Wasswa, who identified as gay and gender-nonconforming, worked as a paralegal for the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a legal aid organisation that supports vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people.
Wasswa was also a peer educator with the AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), an independent Ugandan organisation dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, where he conducted HIV outreach to the LGBTQI community.
Executive director Frank Mugisha of local advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), stated in a press release that reintroducing the “Kill The Gays” bill had aggravated extreme homophobic sentiments.
“When politicians, members of Parliament call for laws, the reintroduction of the ‘anti-gay’ law, they are responsible for this increase in vulnerability in the LGBT community,” Mugisha said.
The Director of Programs for SMUG, Pepe Julian Onziema, said the Ugandan government was not only failing in its duty to protect Ugandan citizens, but responsible for the spate of LGBTIQ hate-crimes.
“Although there’s no indication that the Ugandan government is directly involved in these homophobic and transphobic killings, it plays a dangerous role by allowing and encouraging anti-LGBTI culture to prevail,” he said.
“Government has the mandate and the responsibility to protect everyone within Uganda’s borders.”
Brian Wassa’s death comes amid rising tensions in Uganda over its struggling LGBTQI community, including the Ugandan government’s recent reconsideration of the infamous 2014 “Kill the Gays” bill, which increases the penalty for homosexuality from life in prison to death.
SMUG notes that Wasswa’s death was the fourth LGBTQI-related murder in three months.
Last week, the Christian majority nation made global headlines after claims that the reintroduction of legislation would curb a rise in “unnatural sex”.
Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister and former Catholic priest, Simon Lokodo, told Reuters that the bill would end people’s involvement and “recruitment” into homosexuality.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Lokodo claimed.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
Reuters reported this week that Uganda will not impose the death penalty for gay sex, after major aid donors said they were monitoring the African nation.
A spokesperson for President Yoweri Museveni said this week that the government has no plans to introduce the “Kill The Gays” legislation; a statement at odds with Lokodo’s comments last week.
“There are no plans by the government to introduce a law like that,” President Museveni’s senior press secretary, Don Wanyama said.
“We have the penal code that already handles issues of unnatural sexual behaviour so there is no law coming up,” he stated.