A message from our Executive Director
When there are attacks on LGBTQI+ persons internationally, either through crackdowns or actions of the state, we immediately look to our partners on the ground to see how we can help, as they lead in a response. After talking with our close partners at SMUG, and after signing onto statements with civil society partners, we’d like to release the following statement:
Rainbow Railroad strongly condemns the Government of Uganda’s decision to suspend the activities of national LGBTQI+ umbrella organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) last week. This is a direct attack on LGBTQI+ advocates in Uganda, and represents a major threat to the broader LGBTQI+ community in the region.
We stand in solidarity with SMUG and echo their call for the government of Uganda to uphold its obligation to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, and echo demands for an immediate stop to the harassment and targeting of LGBTQI+ activists by law enforcement in the country.
Rainbow Railroad has worked closely with SMUG in support of their efforts to provide life-saving support to LGBTQI+ individuals in need. Over the past year we have partnered with SMUG to provide emergency relief services to the LGBTQI+ community particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In both 2020 and 2021, when the Ugandan government engaged in crackdowns towards the LGBTQI+ community, we worked with SMUG under their leadership to support those impacted by these targeted and unjust actions.
The suspension of SMUG is an indication of the shrinking presence of civil society space available to LGBTQI+ advocates in Uganda, and we are deeply concerned for the safety of community members who face ongoing harassment for their work. We know that without civil society organizations to advocate for human rights for LGBTQI+ persons, this could lead to the state targeting the community, and relevant to our work, lead to further displacement and exacerbate the refugee crisis. We call on the Canadian and US governments to engage in dialogue with the Government of Uganda in support of LGBTQI+ rights, and to remind Uganda of its obligations to support the LGBTQI+ community as the result of its standing in international human rights bodies.
People often ask me what they can do to support our work. One specific thing you can do right now is stand in solidarity with SMUG. If you are on twitter, retweet their statement below. We stand with the entire Ugandan LGBTQI+ community in demanding meaningful protection of their rights.
Link to SMUG’s statement: https://twitter.com/SMUG2004/status/1555556472020410368