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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 17, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 07
Uganda government shuts down Gay rights conference
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Uganda government shuts down Gay rights conference

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Uganda's State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, personally broke up a secret Gay rights conference in Entebbe, the Uganda Daily Monitor reported.

Lokodo arrived with police at the Imperial Resort Hotel on Valentine's Day, February 14, as Gay rights activists were preparing for a poolside barbeque to close the conference.

'I have closed this conference because it's illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,' Lokodo told the participants.

'This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda,' Amnesty International General Secretary Salil Shetty said in a statement.

'The government's claimed opposition to the ['Kill the Gays'] bill needs to be supported through their actions. The Ugandan government must allow legitimate, peaceful gatherings of human rights defenders, including those working on LGBT rights.'

The conference was intended to be a two-week retreat for some 30 activists, and was planned to close on February 14. It had been organized by Freedom and Roam Uganda, a group that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships in Uganda.

Lokodo ordered the arrest of Freedom and Roam leader Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, but she escaped, BBC News reported.

Lokodo told reporters that the hotel management had apologized for hoisting the event.

According to the Daily Monitor, hotel staff had been instructed by the organizers not to admit anyone to the hall where the conference was taking place unless the person had been cleared by the organizers.

The government's raid comes on the heels of the reintroduction of David Bahati's anti-Gay bill in Uganda's parliament. The latest version of the bill still contains increased penalties for 'aggravated homosexuality,' but the death penalty has reportedly been dropped.

The Ugandan government has said it does not support Bahati's bill, but does uphold existing laws against same-sex relations.

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