Ugandan police this week arrested a transgender woman who was threatened by an anti-gay mob that demanded the removal of LGBT people from their neighborhood. As of today, the trans woman, named Reagan, has been held by police for four days on homosexuality-related charges.
This is her story, as told by Sandra Ntebi, chair of Uganda’s
LGBT community security team. The tale begins with another transgender woman, Brenda, who is a friend of Reagan:
A mob attacks
Last year Brenda was attacked by a mob, arrested, paraded by police in front of the media, and later released on bail. She then returned from Kampala to her home in Entebbe, about 50 kilometers away on the shores of Lake Victoria. At her home, members of Uganda’s “ex-gay movement” kept visiting her and pressuring her to join them.
Feeling insecure, Brenda contacted the LGBTI security team, which advised her to leave home for a while. She did so, staying with a friend. For a while, things were fine, but on April 17 Brenda was again attacked by unknown people, who beat her up and knocked her unconscious.
When she awoke, she was in a hospital seriously injured. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the umbrella organization of LGBTI organizations in Uganda, paid her hospital bills and, when she was released from the hospital, housed her in a hotel since other locations seemed unsafe. Sandra found her a secure hotel near Sandra’s home, where Brenda’s situation could be supervised.
Reagan comes to help
Reagan stayed there with Brenda, who was still weak and needed help. The security committee raised money and arranged to rent a house for Brenda, which would be less expensive than the hotel. But at that point, the committee learned that Brenda had left the hotel already and only Reagan remained there. Brenda had fled to Nairobi, Kenya.
Sandra advised Reagan to go back home and gave her money to get there. But on May 4, Sandra learned that the police from the Salama Police Post had arrested her in response to citizens’ complaints that a same-sex couple was staying at the hotel. When police arrived, only Reagan remained in the hotel room.
Another mob arrives
Sandra visited her in her cell and asked police why she had been arrested and who had filed a complaint against her. Police told Sandra to sit and wait for an answer. After a few minutes a group of motorcyclists arrived, shouting that they wouldn’t allow homosexuals to stay in that neighborhood and offering to testify against homosexuals in court.
The mob turned against Sandra, saying that she should be arrested on charges of homosexuality and promotion of homosexuality. Sandra contacted Frank Mugisha, executive director of SMUG, who arranged for a lawyer for Sandra.
The lawyer arrived at the police station and advised Sandra to leave so the mob would not endanger her.
Four days in jail and counting
As of today, Reagan has been in jail for four days on charges of homosexuality. The charges are based on complaints from anti-gay concerned citizens with no evidence to back them up, Sandra says.
Reagan was represented by a lawyer, provided by SMUG, from the Onyango and Company law firm, who sought her release on bail.
[This article was revised May 8 to add Brenda’s current location and the name of the police station, to correct the affiliation of the lawyer representing her, and to indicate that the LGBT community security team worked with SMUG on this case, but is an independent group.]
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