Gay Ugandans send out SOS to the world

Pastor Martin Ssempa and Ugandan anti-gay activists celebrate the passing of the harsh anti-­homosexuality law. (Reuters)

Pastor Martin Ssempa and Ugandan anti-gay activists celebrate the passing of the harsh anti-­homosexuality law. (Reuters)

South Africa responded to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's February 24 signing of his country's controversial anti-homosexuality Bill into law with a carefully worded statement condemning all countries that had similar laws.

"You have 82 countries where homosexuality is criminalised," said Clayson Monyela, the spokesperson for the department of international relations. "If South Africa speaks out against one, it would be because it is in the news. We are speaking out against all of them."

South Africa's foreign policy is grounded in the Constitution, he added.

The Mail & Guardian this week received a first-hand account of how life in Uganda had changed with the passing of the law in which first-time "offenders" get 14 years in jail.
The author has asked to stay anonymous for the sake of personal safety.

Harassment and eviction
"The situation in Uganda is horrible, with people being harassed, detained and forcefully evicted.

"The morning after President Museveni signed the anti-gay Bill, we woke to the news of a gay friend of ours who had been lynched by a mob. His partner was badly beaten and is in hospital in a critical condition.

"I am not surprised by this. By signing the Bill at a fully televised function and making the comments he made at the event, Museveni made it clear that LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people are considered an ­anomaly, suggesting that violence against them would not be frowned upon.

"More than ever, LGBTIs are a target. Over the past two days, Red Pepper, a popular local tabloid, has taken to publishing the names and photos of LGBTI people, including their places of work and residence.

"Two hundred people have been forcefully outed so far, making us easy targets for blood-hungry homophobes. We have heard cases of people fleeing to Kenya. Some in a refugee camp at Kakuma in Kenya have suffered even more, since all refugees fleeing Uganda are apparently considered to be LGBTI. We have heard a case of a trans[gender] man's travel documents being taken away at an airport.

'Dire situation'
"The situation is dire. The cutting of aid from overseas has only exacerbated issues, as now every ordinary Ugandan will blame LGBTIs for their economic plight, further validating their prejudice about Western ­imperialistic ­imposition on African states.

"The whole debate has been misconstrued, and our health and identities moralised and politicised. With emotions running high, it is hard to even hold a conversation on LGBTI issues in Uganda right now.

"All that remains is the ­constitutional challenge to the Act in Parliament, but it will take ages for a positive ruling to materialise – if ever.

"In the meantime, the safety and security of LGBTI people is of the utmost importance, and we need countries to loosen their asylum regulations and grant exposed LGBTI people an emergency exit as the fight continues.

'Sexual genocide'
"That is the message we need to get out there, as no foreign mission has come out clearly on this. They fought alongside us against the legislation, and it would be unfortunate for them to abandon our members now.

"There are warning signs of a ­sexual genocide, incited by the government, including the president, the media and religious leaders.

"This is an SOS to the whole world. My boyfriend and I have been under self-imposed house arrest since the passing of the Bill. My mom comes over at night to bring food.

"We need to get out to safety, but [it's] not just us. There needs to be collective mass action. If there is any help you can offer ­– the need is so urgent! Everyone, please get the word out there."

Sipho Kings

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