News (World)

Ugandan police arrest 127 people at a queer bar for the crime of “smoking”

Ugandan LGBTQ activists push for LGBTQ rights in a public demonstration.
Photo: Shutterstock

At 2 a.m. this morning, Ugandan police raided the LGBTQ-friendly RAM bar and arrested 127 people for “smoking banned substances.”

Though police claim they didn’t know that the bar had any queer people in it, the bar is known for hosting an LGBTQ-inclusive gathering on Sunday nights, the night the raid occurred. The local LGBTQ activists have called the raid and arrests “an attack on their freedom.”

Related: Uganda says it’s not reintroducing the “Kill the Gays” bill days after a legislator said it was

In a video showing footage during the raid, numerous patrons sit on the floor, looking down, and covering their faces as “armed police officers, army soldiers and Local Defense Unit officials” stalk around and carry out hookahs from the bar as evidence.

Authorities claims that the bar’s patrons had been smoking “narcotics.”

According to PinkNews, two activists say “the 127 people arrested were taken to the Central Police Station… Two were released, while 125 appeared in court today.” Some people still detained in jail are said to be “hungry and helpless.”

In August, Ugandan police arrested about 20 people attending a gay pride event at a nightclub in Kampala and subsequently cancelled a local Pride parade the following September. This October, Ugandan police arrested for 16 people for homosexuality in a gruesome raid of an Uganda HIV organization. Then, in early November, a quartet of African HIV experts said Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ policies are making the country’s HIV epidemic worse.

LGBTQ people have no rights in Uganda. Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by seven years to life in jail under vague laws forbidding “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” The country banned same-sex marriage in 2005 and has no protections for queer citizens against harassment or violence anywhere.

Of Africa’s 54 countries, 33 criminalize gay sex thanks to British-era colonial laws and American evangelicals like Scott Lively who’ve exported Christian homophobia abroad. While African politicians often paint LGBTQ identity as a “decadent Western import,” gay sex and even same-sex marriage were prevalent in many pre-colonial African tribes.

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