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Authorities in Uganda have suspended prominent LGBTQ rights group

KABALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan authorities have suspended the work of a prominent LGBTQ rights group, labeling it an illegal entity.

Sexual Minorities Uganda has been the East African nation’s most important lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer support group since 2004.

Its leader, Frank Mugisa, said on Saturday that authorities overseeing non-governmental organizations had advised him to suspend his activities, saying his group did not have the necessary documents.

“This means that the saving work we are doing is on hold. We cannot protect and support vulnerable LGBT people,” he said. “The background, of course, is homophobia and transphobia.”

The NGO Office said in a statement that the group had to stop work “with immediate effect” because it is neither a company nor an NGO.

The case against Sexual Minorities Uganda comes from the very name of the group. The registrar of companies refused to register this name, saying it was inappropriate. A judge agreed, and the group’s appeal to a higher court awaits judgment, Mugisha said.

He said that because of the hostility towards his group over the years, he decided to run it as a “club” instead of an NGO.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalizes sexual acts “against the order of nature,” and LGBTQ people face widespread discrimination.

Some Ugandan officials have called for tough new legislation after a panel of judges overturned an anti-gay law enacted by President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 amid international condemnation.

That law, invalidated because it had been passed by lawmakers during a non-quorum session, carried sentences of up to life in prison for people convicted of engaging in same-sex activity.

The original version of this bill, first introduced in 2009, included the death penalty for aggravated acts of homosexuality.

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