Official police data shows that 194 people were charged under the offence between 2017 and 2020, including 25 who went on to be convicted.
Although there are no laws specifically criminalising being transgender in Uganda, trans people are regularly prosecuted for other offences including “personation” (false representation), according to reports compiled by rights organisations.
Since its establishment almost two decades ago, Smug has campaigned for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda by promoting access to health services and supporting members of the LGBT community to live openly.
It has also taken legal action to protect gay people from hostility, including in 2010 when it successfully petitioned a Ugandan judge to order a newspaper to stop publishing the names and photographs of gay Ugandan men under the headline “hang them”.
At the time, Ugandan politicians were preparing to debate whether or not to introduce the death penalty for same-sex relationships – a legislative amendment that attracted widespread international condemnation before eventually being dropped.
More recently, Smug has vocally criticised anti-gay speeches delivered by Ugandan politicians – including in the run up to national elections in 2021.
“The politicians are using the LGBT community as a scapegoat to gain support and win votes and it is fuelling homophobia,” Smug’s director Frank Mugisha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.