Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has been forced to halt all operations following a decision by Uganda’s non-government organisation regulator to shut the group down.
SMUG confirmed the shutdown, saying that they had been ordered by the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO Bureau) to discontinue their operations effective immediately.
— Sexual Minorities Uganda | SMUG (@SMUG2004) August 5, 2022
Speaking on the matter, The NGO Bureau confirmed they had “taken the decision to halt the operations of SMUG with immediate effect” because the organisation is not legally registered and is thus “operating illegally.”
“The refusal to legalise SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders, was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies … treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” SMUG explained in a statement.
“These further compromise efforts to demand better health services and escalate the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community,” the group added.
The decision to shut down the group has been met with widespread criticism from LGBTQ+ rights groups worldwide, including Pan Africa ILGA, which condemned the move.
“We have observed that several African states continue to use state law and state apparatus to clamp down on LGBTIQ+ organisations and activists whose only offence has been to protect the human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons,” explained Executive Director of Pan Africa ILGA Nate Brown.
“We have seen this in Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Lesotho, and Uganda. This is disparaging to many of these states’ commitment to advance human rights protection of all persons in their national laws, regional and international treaties,” Brown added.
SMUG had previously attempted to register as an organisation multiple times officially; however, it was refused by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) under the Companies Act to register as a group, with the URSB saying the name was “undesirable and un-registrable.”
Additionally, the URSB added that the group would be unable to register as it would advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ people who “are engaged in activities labelled criminal acts under sec.145 of the Penal Code Act.”