Organizing for LGBT Rights in Uganda

As many of you know, the Ugandan Parliament is considering an Anti-Homosexuality bill that would outlaw homosexuality in that country.

You may have seen Rachel Maddow take on US anti-gay and religious right activists like Rick Warren who are supporting Ugandans who are trying to pass the Anti-Homosexual Bill in that country.

A Ugandan lesbian activist Kasha Jacqueline was recently interviewed at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development.  After following these third parties (even Maddow) I found her perspective fascinating – life is already difficult for LGBTI in Uganda – and even more horrifying in the implications of the proposed law:

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. For many people and institutions, it is a no- go area. Many of us have been expelled from schools just for writing love letters to our same-sex lovers, something our heterosexual colleagues are not expelled for. My principal at university even made me sign a memorandum of understanding that I would not go anywhere within a radius of 100 metres of the girls’ hostels because I am a lesbian! So many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons have been expelled, sacked from jobs and sent away from families. Many do not receive appropriate and necessary healthcare services for fear of revealing their sexual orientation, identity or preferences. Transgender individuals and lesbians have been subjected to ‘curative’ rape and the perpetrators in most of the cases recorded come from the victims’ immediate families.

LGBTI persons if identified are harassed on the streets, in public recreation centres and churches. Many have been evicted from their houses by landlords. I was once thrown out of a public taxi[i]because a woman who identified me as a lesbian said she would rather pay for the empty space beside her than have me sit in the same vehicle as her. When I got out of the taxi she continued to shout and draw attention to me. Some bodaboda[ii] riders stationed nearby heard her and one of them whom I didn’t identify hit me on the head with a hard, sharp object. So it is really not a safe environment for LGBTI persons, especially those of us who are out and are actively doing advocacy work to end the criminalization.

The bill, which is still pending in the Ugandan Parliament has made life even more precarious for LGBT in Uganda:

It is very scary not to know what the future holds for you especially when it includes facing death. Many of us are now underground for fear of abuse by State and non-state actors since lots of allegations and lies are being fuelled in the public. Many people who didn’t even have a problem with us before are now being influenced and by the anti-gay crusaders who are saying all sorts of things about us. There are allegations that members of the LGBTI community recruit children, break up families and spread HIV/AIDS through sodomy. Some cannot even go to church because every sermon is about how sick we are and what sinners we are. There is a lot of talk about how we have dirty sex from eating our faeces to urinating in our mouths. This has made the public so angry that they are ready to strike at homosexuals. Many of us are now back in the closet. I am forced to work from home now for fear of being beaten on the streets since I make frequent television appearances.

And, yet, in spite of ignorance, violence, and legal system that doesn’t protect their rights, FARUG and activists like Jacqueline continue to organize and protest to improve the lives of LGBTI people in Uganda.

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