Note: We changed our name from “Friends New Underground Railroad” to “Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.”
In February 2014, the Ugandan Parliament approved and President Yoweri Museveni signed a new law criminalizing homosexuality, with sentences up to and including life imprisonment. The law also made “aiding and abetting” homosexuality a criminal offense, carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
When the law was passed, attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people increased, with large numbers of beatings and several murders.
On August 1, 2014 the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the law invalid on a technicality, and at that time the attacks actually increased as people were stirred up and manipulated by hateful leaders.
Before and after the February 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Law, there were and are laws making homosexuality illegal in Uganda.
There continue to be many arrests, with few emerging from the jails; lawyers are afraid to take cases as they might be seen as aiding and abetting homosexuality. LGBT people are being evicted summarily from their homes as landlords don’t want to be known as harboring them. University students are being expelled, as are high school students, seminarians dismissed from theological colleges, people fired from their jobs. And families are disowning their children and throwing them out – church leaders are calling on parents to turn their own children in to the police.
LGBT people are denied treatment in hospitals and clinics, and treatment for those with HIV discontinued. A 24-hour ‘Christian’ radio station, supported with funds from American evangelicals, reads the names of ‘known or suspected’ homosexuals, calling for their castration or sterilization in prison.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have gone into hiding as best they can, or are trying to escape the country.
As soon as the Anti-Homosexuality Law was struck down, politicians announced they would pass another which could happen at any time.
Friends and co-workers in Uganda – both gay and straight – independently connected with members of Olympia Friends Meeting and asked for our assistance to help them aid LGBT people, who are literally running for their lives, to leave Uganda.
Since then, this social justice work we have undertaken in the manner of Quaker practice in the United States has sprung up in Uganda, with ‘conductors,’ unknown to each other [and we plan to keep it that way], providing avenues by which those at risk can escape to freedom. Several western countries have policies to accept LGBT refugees, provided the necessary paperwork can be completed.
So, we have set this Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund project in motion.
May 4, 2015 — We have thus far directly funded 1004 individuals out of Uganda. [For an UPDATED status, see our FAQs page.]
Once they reach their interim destinations, there are people providing legal and visa support for them to get to third countries, and some very limited housing and medical assistance.
Some of these escapes have been quite harrowing. There are angry mobs in some of the places where they have been in hiding.
The incredibly brave Ugandan leaders are taking on great personal risk, facing not only legal penalties including time in prison, and in many cases mob action should they be found out. They are putting their own lives at risk to save others.
Our costs per individual have ranged between $55-$190 for each individual assisted; there have been some additional, though limited, support costs.
Our Meeting is connecting with African Friends to seek out their assistance. As American Meetings have heard of the work we are being contacted by some of them to ask what they can do to help, and we have also begun to connect with international Friends Meetings. And of course we welcome the aid of those who are not Friends as well.
More Background Information:
Text of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 (pdf file)
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014
Anti-LGBT laws: Uganda
from Erasing 76 Crimes
I am begging the US Ambassador to Uganda for help for — – and for help from all
by Gabi Clayton – Inside the Outsider – March 20, 2014
Important – regarding — and — – please help and share:
by Gabi Clayton – Inside the Outsider – April 9, 2014
Emergency Fund for Ugandan LGBTQ Friends Seeking Escape: Talcott Broadhead, Danger Dot Publishing
by Gabi Clayton – Inside the Outsider – April 10, 2014
Olympia Monthly Meeting (Quakers) creates a “New Underground Railroad” project to aid LGTBQ Ugandans
by Gabi Clayton – Inside the Outsider – April 23, 2014
Uganda Drafts New Anti-Gay Law Targeting NGOs
by Reuters – Newsweek – April 28, 2014
Statement on the anti-homosexuality law
by Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting (C&SAYM) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – April 2014