Despite the annulment of the 2014 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, which sought to criminalise same-sex relations with life imprisonment and even capital punishment, members of the LGBTQI+ community continue to face shame and violence.

Crackdowns and protests

Several bills have been proposed in parliament, including the Anti-Homosexuality bill and the Revised Anti-homosexuality bill, and just recently, the Criminalization of Sex Work and Gay Sex bill. However, thanks to the rigorous fight put up by LGBTQI+ activists against the government through protests and the courts, none of these bills saw the light of day.

Still, this has not stopped the government and members of the public from taking matters into their own hands to crack down on LGBTQI+ personnel.

In May this year, the police raided a private party held at an LGBT centre in Kampala. This saw 44 people arrested, assaulted, and humiliated on social media when some of the attendants’ identities were revealed.

That terrifying moment remains in the memory of other LGBTQI+ community members like Iga Isma, Executive Director of Happy Family Youth Uganda. This is what she had to say:

Iga: ‘In May, police raided a private function that had 44 LGBTQI+ members. They were arrested for conducting a gay wedding — which was not the case, as they were just having a party. Since their arrest, although they have now been released, they have been receiving a lot of stigma. … It is now difficult for them to move, get a job or do anything because when they are on the streets people intimidate, harass and assault them. They are facing a lot of challenges. They cannot talk in the community, they cannot buy anything. Some of them, when they were released from prison, came back to burned down houses. Their houses were set on fire by some members of the community and others were chased away by their families’.

Consequently, having been rejected and sidelined by their loved ones, many members of the LGBTQI+ community have lost their sense of belonging, says Iga.

Iga: ‘In Uganda today, hundreds of LGBTQI+ people have no place to call home. They are kicked out by their homophobic and transphobic conservative communities, as well as family members, due to stigma. [As a result] a lot of LGBTQI+ people continue to live in the shadows due to fear of rejection by their families, colleagues and members of their communities.

‘However, we as LGBTQI+ organisations are trying to educate members of the community, government and all stakeholders about the LGBTQI+ community … because that is the only way we can do away with the repugnant attitudes. Though it is difficult … we are trying to change the narrative’.

It remains to be seen whether the new administration, under President Yoweri Museveni, will do anything to help the LGBTQI+ community in East Africa find freedom from persecution.

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