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Interviewees, including representatives of mainstream human rights organizations, said the SSMPA has created opportunities for people to act out their homophobia with brutality and without fear of legal consequences.
Under the auspices of the SSMPA, police have raided the offices of NGOs that provide legal and HIV services to LGBT communities.
The law has become a tool being used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimize multiple human rights violations perpetrated against LGBT people.
Such violations include torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, violations of due process rights, and extortion.
They told Human Rights Watch that this was not necessarily a major concern prior to the passage of the SSMPA.
Lesbian and bisexual women in particular reported that fear of being perceived as “guilty by association” led them to avoid associating with other LGBT community members, increasing their isolation and, in some cases, eventually compelling them to marry an opposite-sex partner, have children, and conform to socially proscribed gender norms.
They told Human Rights Watch that members of the public informed the police that gay men were gathered together and when police arrived and found a bag of condoms that belonged to an HIV peer educator, they were all arrested.Individuals who have been arrested and detained are released on “bail,” usually after offering bribes to the police.Faced with 14 years’ imprisonment, several interviewees said they had little choice but to pay.The heated public debate and heightened media interest in the law have made homosexuality more visible and LGBT people even more vulnerable than they already were.Many LGBT individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that prior to the enactment of the SSMPA in January 2014, the general public objected to homosexuality primarily on the basis of religious beliefs and perceptions of what constitutes African culture and tradition.