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Uganda bans 38 agencies it says are promoting gay rights

By David McKenzie, CNN
June 21, 2012 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The ban comes in the wake of a police raid on a gay rights activists' meeting
  • The ethics minister says the organizations were "pretending to work" in human rights
  • Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as it is in many other African countries

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- The Ugandan government said Wednesday it will ban at least 38 nongovernmental agencies it says are promoting gay rights and recruiting children into homosexuality.

"We have investigated them thoroughly and we have found their sponsors," said Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo. "We will ask them to step aside and stop pretending to work in human rights."

"Some NGOs, under the pretext of providing social services, are receiving funds to promote homosexuality," he said.

The organizations -- both international and local -- will lose their registrations and no longer be able to operate in Uganda. He did not name the groups on the list.

Why is Uganda attacking homosexuality?
Uganda gay rights

"The sooner they are phased out, the better," he said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as it is in many African countries, and legislation is pending in parliament that could bring even harsher penalties for gays.

At one point the bill included life imprisonment and even the death penalty. That provision was dropped, under intense pressure from donor countries, but several Ugandan politicians still plan to push it through parliament.

"We are resolutely opposed to the bill," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday. "We think it's inconsistent with Uganda's international human rights obligations, and this just sets a bad, bad precedent in the neighborhood."

The announcement of the ban comes in the wake of a police raid Monday that disrupted a gay rights activists' workshop in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Amnesty International and participating groups called the raid "illegal."

The police detained the participants for several hours, Amnesty said, cordoning off the hotel and questioning more than a dozen people. All were later released without charge.

"This continued harassment and intimidation of human rights activists must stop and the police need to start adhering to the laws they are supposed to protect and enforce," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty's deputy director for Africa.

A police spokesperson would not comment on the matter.

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