​Flight to safety: A lesbian's story of persecution in Uganda and her SA experience

Participants in a gay pride rally in Uganda in 2014 sport rainbow flags and an umbrella in the same colours. (Isaac Kasamani/AFP)

Participants in a gay pride rally in Uganda in 2014 sport rainbow flags and an umbrella in the same colours. (Isaac Kasamani/AFP)

“You know, in Uganda, if you tell people you’re a lesbian, they’ll say you’re Satan.

“‘You’re a demon’, that’s what they say. So I left Kampala in 2009.

“But mainly it was because I had problems with my then-partner’s family.  No, they had a problem with me. Her father was a soldier – a general or something.
He was a big man in Uganda. Anyway, he found out I was in a relationship with his daughter, so he sent his soldiers around to my house. There were about 10 of them. They came to my house and beat me up really badly.

“I didn’t know what was going on. I kept asking myself: why this was happening? What was wrong with me? What I’d done? They said nothing as they were beating me, so I really didn’t understand what was happening.

“I was living alone, so there was nobody to help me. But I managed to escape because the electricity failed and, because it was really dark, I could escape.

“I was badly injured but was too scared to go to any of the hospitals, so I took only pain tablets just to deal with the pain. It was only later that my then-partner told me that it was her father who had sent those soldiers to my house. She said he wanted to have me killed and that I should flee.

“I left immediately and went to a town called Mbarara, where I lived for about two months until, one day, the soldiers came looking for me again. I was fortunately not home at the time but when I heard that they had been there, I left.

“I went to a town called Jinja. My then-partner had joined me by then and, one day, while we were walking down the road, a group of about 20 people came towards us with sticks and stones and things. They were shouting at us, saying things like: ‘You people. We don’t want you here’, while they beat us.

“I knew I had to leave Jinja, so I offered a truck driver money to take me to Nairobi in Kenya. I didn’t have the money he was asking, but he took me anyway. On our way there, he starts saying that, because the money I gave him was too little I would have to ‘be his wife’ – I would have to sleep with him. So I slept with him. I had no choice.

“I ended up in the town of Tunduma, on the border of Tanzania and Zambia. I lived there for two months. I washed cars for a living and saved up enough money to take a bus to South Africa. The woman I befriended on the bus ride here gave me money to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

“When I got here, I went to a home affairs office and, because there were so many people there, I had to bribe one of the security people to let me enter. They gave me forms to fill out, but I didn’t write on that form that I was applying on the basis of being LGBTI.

“I was too scared. I didn’t know that in South Africa it is legal to be gay.

“My application was rejected. I have appealed but I still don’t have the proper documentation.

“I’m happy I came to South Africa, but at first it was very hard, very hard. I was raped. Twice. And every time they were saying things like: ‘You! You’re a foreigner taking our ladies. We’ll show you.’

“So there are still a lot of challenges, even in South Africa. But there’s nothing I can do. It’s just life, isn’t it?”

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation‘s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian

The Other Foundation

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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