Twenty people detained during Pride event in country where homosexuality is illegal under colonial-era laws.

Ugandan police broke up a gay Pride event in the capital last night and arrested about 20 people, in the latest incident highlighting the risks facing the LGBT community in the country.

A fashion show was underway at a nightclub in Kampala when police arrived and demanded to know who had organised the event, said gay rights activist Frank Mugisha.

Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was handcuffed when he identified himself as one of the organisers. He was arrested in a group of about 20, put on a truck and driven to a police station for questioning, he said.

Mugisha said the group had been released more than two hours later without being charged, although some detainees said they had been slapped or pushed around by officers.

One man trying to escape arrest at the nightclub had injured himself while jumping to safety, he said. “We condemn the police’s actions, the use of excessive force during arrest,” he said.

Ugandan police spokesman Patrick Onyango confirmed the arrests but gave no further details.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that prohibits sex acts “against the order of nature”.

This incident highlights the challenges faced by gays in the country, where homosexuality is severely stigmatised.

In 2009 an MP introduced a bill that prescribed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, saying he wanted to protect children. The proposed bill prompted international condemnation and eventually a less severe version passed by MPs was rejected by a court as unconstitutional.

Watchdog groups say LGBTI Ugandans routinely face violence, discrimination and extortion.

“Tonight’s outrageous and unlawful government raid on a spirited celebration displays the extreme impunity under which Ugandan police are operating,” Health Gap, a US-based Aids advocacy group, said in a statement.

“We call on governments and UN bodies to immediately and publicly condemn this brutal raid and call on government to take swift disciplinary action against those responsible for these gross violations of rights and freedoms.”

Before the raid Kuchu Times, a collective focusing on LGBTI issues in Africa, tweeted photographs from the show, which was dedicated to those killed when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The group said Pride events planned for today would continue, despite the police intervention.

 

This article was originally published on The Guardian.

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