Uganda's Awful Anti-Gay Law Has Made Homelessness A Big, Ugly Problem
Less than three months after Uganda's notorious anti-gay bill was signed into law, human-rights groups are reporting a horrifically high number of human-rights violations. The findings are, unfortunately, not unexpected — President Yoweri Museveni's Anti-Homosexuality Act is sweeping and calamitous in its powers. But the new law is also having another, less predictable consequence in Uganda: homelessness.
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, dozens of Ugandans have been thrown out of their homes since the law was enacted in March. Some were forced out after being exposed as gay by a Ugandan tabloid; others found themselves without homes after only suspected of being gay. But that's enough: the new law makes it illegal for someone to have "a house, room, set of rooms, or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality.”
Which has meant that many Ugandans are being evicted because their landlords are justifiably terrified of spending time in prison. Between December 2013 and May of this year alone, there have been 68 cases of LGBT evictions reported to the Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the National LGBTI Security Team.
"If you're perceived to be LGBT, no one's going to rent to you, for fear of their own criminal responsibility," says Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told NPR.
In March, The Advocate cited the case of a lesbian who was kicked out of her apartment — even though she was told she was a "wonderful" tenant by her landlord. "You have been a wonderful woman as well as a tenant who hasn’t given me any trouble over rent whatsoever," the landlord is quoted as saying. "But due to what is going on in the country and your way you and your friends behave. ... I also cannot fight against the government. For that reason, I want you out of my house by March 30, 2014, peacefully."
A month later, the Huffington Post cited the case of another gay Ugandan teen who was forced onto the streets. “In this place I met gays who had suffered more than me and some even died of AIDS because of poor standards of living they were staying in," the teen said.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, 87 LGBT people have fled into Kenya to look for asylum there since the end of April alone. In the U.S., the government is dealing with over double the number of LGBT asylum seekers as it did at this time last year, according to Amnesty International.
"The Anti-Homosexuality Act is creating homelessness and joblessness, restricting life-saving HIV work, and bloating the pockets of corrupt police officers who extort money from victims of arrest," Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher of an LGBT rights program said in a statement.
What's worse? The new law means that homeless LGBT (or perceived LGBT) people will have a hard time finding refuge of any kind — even the “recognition” of gay activity “through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non-governmental organization inside or outside the country” is against the law.