The passage of one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws by Uganda’s government has unleashed a torrent of abuse against LGBTQ people, mostly committed by private individuals, rights groups say.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), enacted in May, prescribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts. At least six people have been charged under it, including two accused of the capital offence of “aggravated homosexuality”.

But a report, authored by a committee of the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition and made public on Thursday, says the main perpetrators of human rights abuses against LGBTQ people this year – including torture, rape, arrest and eviction – were private individuals. 

The report said this pointed to the way the law and the rampant homophobic rhetoric that preceded its passage earlier in the year had radicalised the public against the LGBTQ community.

For example, the report said, mob-aided arrests had become increasingly common “because AHA has put LGBTIQ+ persons on the spot as persons of interest, and the public seems to be the custodians of enforcing the witch hunt”.

Between January 1 and August 31, researchers documented 306 rights violations based on the victims’ sexual orientation and gender identity, with state actors as the perpetrators in 25 of those cases.

By contrast, reports by rights activists in 2020 and 2021 found that state actors were responsible for nearly 70 percent of the rights violations documented in those years. The report did not provide comparative figures for 2022.

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