A 2018 protest against Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ oppression — Photo: Alisdare Hickson
The Trump administration is preparing to deport a lesbian woman who fled Uganda after she was beaten and raped because of her sexuality.
The 20-year-old, speaking to Rolling Stone, had her asylum claim rejected due to a lack of “credible fear,” with officers telling her she couldn’t know that she would be in danger if she was sent back to her home country.
It is currently illegal to be gay in Uganda, with punishment of up to life in prison.
The government also recently announced plans to revive its “Kill the Gays” bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by death.
Related: Uganda revives ‘Kill the Gays’ bill, adds punishments for ‘promotion’ of homosexuality
Margaret said that she had already been targeted in Uganda specifically for her sexuality.
She made the decision to flee to Mexico, and subsequently seek asylum in the U.S., after multiple instances of anti-gay discrimination and abuse.
Aware of her sexuality at 13, Margaret said she had spent six years hiding it for fear of what might happen — something that later came to pass when she was forced to drop out of college after rumors spread about her sexuality and she started experiencing discrimination from fellow students.
Then, while attending the Nyege Nyege music festival in Uganda — a three-day festival that reportedly draws a number of LGBTQ people — Margaret said that while leaving she was dragged off the road, blindfolded, beaten, and then raped.
Bleeding and left in the bushes to die, Margaret said that she “tried to call for help, but I couldn’t.” She told Rolling Stone that the men made it clear that she had been targeted specifically because of her perceived sexuality.
She was forced to visit a doctor for treatment due to her injuries, though she had hide her sexuality and the reason for the attack.
The final straw came a few months later, when police raided a party thrown by a friend due to the presence of LGBTQ people. The officers reportedly “shot bullets in the air outside of the house, and then kicked down the gate to get in,” Margaret said, adding that the police started striking the partygoers with their batons.
Gathering her things, she fled to Mexico a few days later, where she traveled to Juárez with the intention of declaring asylum in the U.S.
However, due to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, she wasn’t able to cross the border until September.
After detailing her story to officials, including producing evidence of her medical treatment after being raped and beaten, she was told that her claim for asylum was being rejected.
Margaret will have a chance to appeal the decision. Should that fail, she will be deported back to Uganda.
Earlier this month, Uganda’s government announced plans to reintroduce its “Kill the Gays” bill, as part of a renewed crackdown on LGBTQ people.
Speaking to Reuters, a government minister said that the legislation would curb the spread of ‘unnatural sex’ in Uganda.
A previous version of the bill failed on a legal technicality, after it passed the country’s parliament without the required number of lawmakers in attendance.
Under the legislation, acts of “aggravated homosexuality” were punishable by up to life in prison or even the death penalty.
Lesbians, who had previously escaped prosecution, were included in the law and subject to the same punishment as gay men.
The updated 2019 bill is expected to once again include the death penalty, along with harsher restrictions on “gay propaganda” — akin to Russia’s 2013 ban, which outlawed the promotion of same-sex relationships.
A 2011 State Department report found that LGBTQ people in Uganda are “subject to societal harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and threats to their well-being.”
LGBTQ people also face public outing, as well as torture, beatings, and even vigilante execution.
Uganda revives ‘Kill the Gays’ bill, adds punishments for ‘promotion’ of homosexuality
LGBTQ protests force first British Chick-fil-A to close
Billy Porter: ‘Hugely, violently homophobic’ music industry killed early music career