By Mark Singer | KAMPALA, UGANDA -- During the opening arguments in a lawsuit brought against a government minister by Ugandan LGBTQ Equality Rights Activists on Monday, the Ugandan High Court Judge hearing the matter, Eldad Mwangushya, said that the country's security and interior ministries should “infiltrate” gay rights groups to ascertain if children are being “recruited into homosexuality.” Mwangushya added that rather than forcing LGBTQ people not to hold meetings, ministry uncover operatives could attend the meetings and hear what the 'homosexuals' are discussing.
The suit, was brought against Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo for forcing the closure of a LGBTQ equality rights workshop in February this year. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and a bill proposing increasing jail terms to life is before its parliament.
Frank Mugisha- a 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award recipient- along with fellow LGBTQ activists Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema and Geoffrey Ogwaro petitioned the Ugandan High court to pronounce that Lokodo’s closure of the LGBTQ equality rights workshop on February 14, 2012 in Entebbe violated their freedom of assembly guaranteed under the Ugandan constitution.
Mugisha and his fellow activists ask that the court declare Lokodo’s closure of the workshop constitutes an infringement of their right to participate in peaceful activities to influence policies of government through civic organizations guaranteed under article 38(2) of the Ugandan constitution.
The complaint reads in part, “That the action of the minister to order the closing of the workshop while no other workshop taking place at the same venue was closed was arbitrary and unjustified and constituted an infringement of the applicants’ and other participants’ right equal treatment before the law under article 21 of the constitution.”
The raid, led by the Minister personally, forcefully stopped a meeting of LGBTQ activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders. Lokodo accused the activists of recruiting children into the "homosexual lifestyle."
Mugisha told reporters at the time of the raid, the activists responded to Lokodo’s claims saying that the minister was lying, in retaliation he ordered security guards to arrest them.
Last Monday, June 18, the Lokodo forced his way into another meeting, this one was being convened by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders, a local Ugandan organization and arrested the participants.
"I have got a record of meetings that they have held to empower, enhance and recruit [homosexuals]," Lokodo told reporters at the time. "I have investigated and established beyond reasonable doubt that these groups have been involved in the promotion and recruitment in terms of the 'gay' issues."
Mugisha, who leads the underground group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, blames U.S. evangelical activists in particular for stoking fears and promoting homophobia with a 2009 visit and conference on "rehabilitation" for gays in Uganda. Since then, violence against gays has increased, he said.
Minister Lokodo counters that claim by Mugisha saying that its the pro LGBTQ equality organisations that are receiving foreign support for Uganda's homosexuals and accused gay people of "recruiting" young children into homosexuality.
Uganda is a largely conservative society and many people condemn homosexuality both as unAfrican and unChristian. Gay people have faced physical attacks, losing their jobs and social rejection.
The lawyers for the activists led by lead attorney Elasdius Rwakafuuzi requested that Judge Mwangushya issue an injuction restraining the minister from further closings of LGBTQ rights meetings.