Several attacks on LGBTQ people in Uganda have negatively affected the community’s human rights. Many of these events have been fuelled by religion, cultural or personal beliefs, judicial decisions and politics, thus explaining the prevailing homophobia that has, over time, become normal in the country.
Same-sex unions are forbidden and unlawful in Uganda, and an offence such as “aggravated homosexuality” could earn perpetrators life imprisonment.
These discriminatory acts have infringed on several human rights, among them the right to equality and freedom from discrimination; freedom of expression; freedom from arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention; the right to dignity; and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.
It has been extensively reported that a significant number of attacks on LGBTQ people have been perpetrated by police.
Many of Uganda’s LGBTQ people have been victims of violence, social injustice and discrimination. They have been abandoned by their families, leading them to live in fear of their lives, with many of them struggling to survive economically, at the same time as having their access to health services affected.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Act is creating homelessness and joblessness, restricting life-saving HIV work,” said a LGBTQ rights researcher at the international nongovernmental organisation Human Rights Watch in 2014 after the Act was passed.
Vinka Silk (Trans woman)
‘Policies are there: they just need to be enforced and implemented. If we talk of equality, freedom of speech and expression, plus access to medical care for all Ugandans, why can’t this apply to us, the LGBT, as well! Are we not Ugandans? Are we not human beings? I was born [under] this government, and have grown to see what it is. I really just want to see change: maybe LGBT, we might find some hope in our country’.
Lillian Baraza (Bisexual)
‘In this country … you can’t be kissing or holding hands of your partner if you are same-sex, they would burn you alive. I really want to see better leadership where everyone is equal, and rights affect everyone the same way. Most importantly, the government needs to put in place medical services for LGBTQ people, especially gay and transgender [people] because there is a lot of discrimination in health centres. Because I’m bi, it is easy to get away with it, but I sympathise with the trans and gay people’
Sheeba Ntaate (Trans woman)
‘I don’t really see meaningful youth engagement [in Uganda] and the LGBT do not have an open space to take up political positions. I think that the government should decriminalise sex work, because this is work. And work is work! Most of us trans people make a living through this, since we are not accepted in most workspaces. I, for one, suffered from sexual harassment where I was working last year and my bosses let me go.’
Watson Samuel (Queer)
‘The political space right now is really tense, and I do not really want to be part of it. I am eligible to vote, but I don’t think I will be voting because I do not feel like anyone is worth my vote. If someone like Frank Mugisha (renowned Ugandan LGBTQ activist) said he were contesting anything, I would go out and even rally for him, because these are the people that have walked in our shoes and know what it means to be marginalised, so they would definitely carry on our message. People in power need to know that we are human. If they want to implement any policy regarding our community, they need to get to the grassroots, do research about us, and understand us [as] more than just a minority’
Monalisa Akintole (Trans woman)
‘All my life has been about fighting for space and just to be heard. As a leader at Transgender Equality Uganda, we are always clamouring people in political spheres to listen to us, and give us opportunities to express ourselves, but that never cultivates hope. It’s just word and word. I love leadership because it satisfies me, but it’s sad that with all the qualifications I have, it is hard to get this opportunity. Once you stand out and people see you are different from their usual gender identities, it will cease to be politics but rather shaming you, and I’m not ready for that’
Keith Mayanja (Trans woman)
‘I was in the bar some time with my colleagues when the police arrested us like thieves, claiming that we were impersonating and dressed like women to scam people. The accusations were terrible : they went ahead to call the media to record to us and put us on the news. It was an embarrassing situation; one of my friends’ parents disowned them after watching it’
Boutras Anderson (Trans woman)
‘There is no open political space for us LGBT persons. If you are a gay person and people get to know you are contesting for an MP position, chances are high they will not be voting for you. I will not be able to vote this political season, because I have failed to get a national ID for two years now. The government needs to consider name-changing policies as some of, especially trans people, are not able to use the desired names [for] our gender identities on [our] identity cards.’
Kalvin (Trans woman)
‘After the Miss Pride event in 2016, where I was also a contestant, I got randomly arrested on my way back home by the police claiming I was cross-dressing to con people. It was really tough spending two days behind bars simply because of who I am. I was lucky to make some calls and got bailed out by some of the event organisers’
Divina Lorinda (Queer)
‘Politics is one of the reasons why we don’t have peace. The people in the political game should start seeing us from a more human perspective and realise that they are only spreading hate. We are not asking to be treated in any special way, we just want equality for all. I want to feel special and proud of my country’
Zack Asiimwe (Trans woman)
‘I surely fear matters of politics. I was almost killed during the last campaigns in Mbale while supporting our very Sempijja Dalausi, a trans woman, who was contesting for an LC4 [county] councillor position. From that time, I fear actively participating in campaigns or any political matters. I was beaten by a mob because of my sexual orientation. When I reported the case to the police with the hope to get assistance, one officer dismissed my case while asking me to go away, saying that he would instead arrest me. I honestly don’t feel like [a] Ugandan sometimes — I can’t wait till I get an opportunity to get asylum in a much fairer country’