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Ugandan government pushes for gay death penalty after brutal murder of LGBT activist

The recent murder of Brian Wassawa, a Ugandan LGBT activist, has led to human rights groups demanding the government to conduct a thorough investigation of the murder.

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Russell Leib Montreal QC
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The recent murder of Brian Wassawa, a Ugandan LGBT activist, has led to human rights groups demanding the government to conduct a thorough investigation of the murder.

Human Rights Watch reports that the 28-year-old activist was attacked in the city of Jinja while at home. He worked as a paralegal for HRAPF, an organization that provides legal aid to vulnerable communities, such as the LGBT community in Uganda.

Wasswa was found by Edward Mwebaza, executive director of HRAPF on October 4th in his home. The door to his house was opened at 5 p.m, where he was found unconscious and lying in a pool of his blood. He was rushed to a local hospital, which was unfortunately unable to treat his wounds-several blows to the head.

He was then transferred to a better-equipped hospital in Kampala, the capital of Uganda but passed away en-route. Police identified the murder weapons, a short-handled hoe and identified a potential suspect, but not much progress has been made on the investigation.

Oryem Nyeko, a researcher at HRW condemned the attack and the government’s stance “In the wake of the horrific murder of Brian Wasswa, the Ugandan government should be making it crystal clear that violence is never acceptable, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, a government minister charged with ethics and integrity is threatening to have gay people killed at the hands of the state.”

Days after the attack, Ugandan Ethics, and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said the government planned to introduce a bill that would implement the death penalty for homosexual sex reports Amnesty International. Lokodo has a long history of homophobia. One notable incident saw him tweeting “Gays should stop promoting their trade. It only kills.”

Another homophobic outburst saw Lokodo publicly advocated a 2016 raid on an LGBT club where patrons were stripped and beaten by police.

The Ugandan government and its people have a history of brutal oppression of the LGBT community. The nation has criminalized homosexuality, with those caught being given life sentences, according to the BBC.

The newly proposed bill to implement the death penalty on homosexuality eerily echoes The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was annulled in Constitutional Court in August of 2014 because the bill did not have enough lawmakers present to vote on it. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) a non-profit NGO advocating LGBT rights says that this murder is the fourth in a string of LGBT murders in the last three months.

The Ugandan Media Centre, a government-run media organization released a statement on Twitter in response to the backlash of the new bill, stating that “the current provisions in the penal code are sufficient.” This claim has been met with skepticism by many LGBT advocates, who fear that the LGBT situation in Uganda will continue to deteriorate.

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