Stella Nyanzi is a prominent academic, social activist, and human rights defender who has long been outspoken about sexual freedom and women’s rights in Uganda. Even though these issues are particularly sensitive in the country, Nyanzi has been unafraid to defend these rights and call out the government’s misconduct. She recently criticized Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the First Lady and Minister of Education Janet Museveni for backtracking on a campaign promise to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls. She then started a campaign to provide the pads herself, which has garnered widespread publicity and thousands of dollars in support.
Nyanzi’s criticism and activism has not come without consequence. She has faced escalating government restrictions and intimidation, including being suspended from her job as a research fellow at Makerere University for criticizing the First Lady, enduring hours of interrogation by police for her social media posts, and even having her home raided and her children threatened by armed officers.
In April 2017, Nyanzi was arrested on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication for her Facebook posts criticizing President Museveni where she called him a “pair of buttocks.” She’s since been denied bail and sent to Luzira prison, the only maximum security prison in the country.
RFK Human Rights and Chapter Four Uganda have submitted an urgent petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Nyanzi demanding her release. Her arrest and ongoing detention violate multiple provisions of both the Ugandan Constitution and Uganda’s obligations under international human rights law and highlight the lengths the country’s leaders will take to target and silence their opponents.