KAMPALA, Uganda — A Ugandan gay rights organization said 16 men were detained earlier this week by police on suspicion of homosexuality and human trafficking.
Diane Bakuraira of Sexual Minorities Uganda said Thursday the arrests took place in a neighborhood just outside the capital, Kampala, on Monday as the men were being hosted by another rights group, Let's Walk Uganda.
A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, confirmed the arrests, saying the men were detained following a "complaint from the public." However, Let’s Walk Uganda claimed that the police were called by the LGBTQ people themselves after an angry mob attacked their shelter.
On Thursday afternoon, Let's Walk Uganda, shared a message on Facebook saying all 16 men had been released. The men, however, were charged with "trafficking in persons" and "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" before being released on bond, according to Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum.
Activists say attacks against LGBTQ people are increasing amid efforts by Uganda's ethics minister to introduce a bill that would punish gay sex with death. The government spokesman denies such a plan exists.
Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight International, said that these "rumors" of an effort to revive Uganda's "kill the gays" bill have served to "stoke hatred" of LGBTQ people and increase the "likelihood of arbitrary arrest and violence."
"The 16 people who police arrested and subjected to forced anal exams are victims of this mounting hate," Stern said in a statement. "We call on Ugandan authorities to stop the practice of using anal exams, which amount to torture; to release those in state custody; and to ensure that the rumored legislation does not become a reality."
Uganda's penal code punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.