Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community has risen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, countries with longstanding histories of LGBTQ+ discrimination, such as Uganda, have used the COVID-19 pandemic to persecute the LGBTQ+ community under the cover of newly introduced COVID-19 laws. Madlen Davies and Rosa Furneaux of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report that in Uganda, where the government in 2014 attempted to pass a law making homosexuality a crime, the number of LGBTQ+ people arrested has doubled since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. In that time frame, Uganda police and military have raided more than 100 LGTBQ+ affiliated homes using the new powers the government has given them during the pandemic. Davies and Furneaux also reported that people from at least 19 different countries reported LGBTQ+ rights violations occurring under COVID-19 restrictions.
According to interviews conducted by Davies and Fruneaux, LGBTQ+ people are being arrested for “breaking curfew,” but once arrested they are being abused, violated, and imprisoned due to their identity. The Uganda police have told other inmates a particular prisoner is LGBTQ+, searched those arrested for “evidence” of anal sex, denied gay prisoners access to lawyers and healthcare, and publicly outed LGBTQ+ people who were first arrested on COVID-19 related charges.
Many of the countries that implemented COVID-19-related laws to combat the pandemic but have since used these laws to persecute the LGBTQ+ community have not established sunset clauses, or an end dates, for these law. As a result, these countries could continue to use their COVID-19-related laws as cover for human rights violations into the foreseeable future.
As of February 2021, the original report by Davies and Fruneaux appears to have received little corporate news coverage. The lone exception was ABC News, which ran a story in late December of 2020 about LGBTQ+ people in the United States being hit harder by the pandemic than the average American. However, it appears no corporate news outlets have mentioned the LGBTQ+ rights violations in Uganda since the beginning of the pandemic. A few independent news organizations have picked up the story, including the Washington Blade.
Graeme Reid, “LGBTQ Inequality and Vulnerability in the Pandemic,” Human Rights Watch, June 18, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/18/lgbtq-inequality-and-vulnerability-pandemic#.
Madlen Davies, “Imprisoned Under the Cover of Covid,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, November 25, 2020, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2020-11-25/imprisoned-under-the-cover-of-covid.
Rosa Furneaux, “Mapping LGBTQ+ Persecution During the Pandemic,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, November 25, 2020, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2020-11-25/mapping-lgbtq-persecution-during-the-pandemic.
Michael Lavers, “Countries urged to stop targeting LGBTQ people during coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Blade, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2020/04/27/countries-urged-to-stop-targeting-lgbtq-people-during-coronavirus-pandemic/.
Student Researcher: Lucas Burris (North Central College)
Faculty Advisor: Steve Macek (North Central College)