Uganda’s government has suspended a local non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, accusing it of working illegally in the East African country, a senior official said.
Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) has been advocating for LGBT rights for years in Uganda, where homosexuality remains illegal and gays face arrest, ostracism and violence.
SMUG was suspended because “they were acting illegally,” Stephen Okello, who heads the state agency that regulates NGOs, said in a statement released by Reuters on Saturday.
“SMUG continues to operate without…valid permission from the NGO,” he said, adding that the group’s activities were immediately suspended.
Uganda is a deeply conservative and religious society where LGBT people face general hostility. The country’s parliament once passed an anti-gay law that provided for life imprisonment for certain categories of homosexual crimes.
The law was eventually overturned by a court that said it was passed without a parliamentary quorum, but some lawmakers and members of the public tried to reintroduce it.
President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, has previously described homosexuality in Uganda as a symbol of Western “social imperialism” in Africa.