2 scary tales of Ugandan gay activists; you can help

Uganda's Red Pepper tabloid. (Photo courtesy of Veooz.com)
Uganda’s Red Pepper tabloid. (Photo courtesy of Veooz.com)

On paper, the Anti-Homosexuality Law has not taken effect in Uganda, but its harsh effects are already being felt on the streets.

Among many reports of arrests, harassment and one murder of LGBT people, here are accounts from two activists associated with the Youth on Rock Foundation and the Come Out Post Test Club, which combat AIDS and work for human rights for LGBT sex workers in Uganda.

[To support the work of the Come Out Post Test Club, visit its fundraising page on Indiegogo.]

The law, which was signed by President Yoweri Museveni on Feb. 24, will take effect after it is officially published (which is called being “gazetted.”)  In the meantime Ugandan tabloids have been running photos and stories about gay activists, and landlords have ordered hundreds of LGBT people to leave their homes, the Ugandan Gender Equality and Health Organization reported.

Matthew (not his real name), a leader of the Youth on Rock Foundation, said that “things have turned upside down” for him since the law was signed:

“As a leader, I am in great danger. Community members believe falsely that I am a promoter of homosexuality, a person who has been recruiting  youth into homosexuality.

Uganda's gay-bashing tabloid Hello.
Uganda’s gay-bashing tabloid Hello.

“On Feb.  27, my name was announced on a local radio station, Tiger FM,  as a person who introduced homosexuality in the community. I have been receiving anonymous phone calls threatening to kill or to burn me alive.

“On Feb. 24, my landlord approached me and asked me about my girlfriend or my wife,  since she had never seen any during the two years I have been renting her house —  just boys.  From that day onwards she has been monitoring each male who visits me. Something is cooking.

“On Feb. 25,  the local council in the Bwaise neighborhood accused me of supporting LGTBI persons who have been reported to police by standing as a surety for them.

“Now I’m no longer free. I spend most of my time indoors. I cannot move safely during the daytime.

“Philip and James (fellow activists; not their real names) also are in great fear since their photos were published in the newspapers.”

Matthew was arrested last year on homosexuality-related charges. He was released after a few days, but was told to report to the police station regularly.   The investigator on the case recently called Matthew to say that the case remains open.

Philip’s account is similar:

“I’m depressed about seeing a photo of me in the Red Pepper [tabloid] that was taken during one of my drag queen shows.  Because I come from a very conservative village, I am sure that this time my family will disown me.

The Red Pepper tabloid has been putting the lives of LGBT people in danger by sensationalizing their stories and publishing their names and photos.
The Red Pepper tabloid has been putting the lives of LGBT people in danger by sensationalizing their stories and publishing their names and photos.

“For many of us in Uganda, our lives have changed drastically. We have witnessed increased threats of attacks, arrests, and detentions, as well as dangerous media  ‘outings.’

“People have been disowned by their families. People have run away to seek shelter in other countries. We have been notified of a number cases of attempted suicides. People have been forced to shut down
their offices due to security concerns.

“This is the general situation in Uganda and it continues to worsen. The Act is yet to be gazetted, and then we expect that there shall be further crackdown of the rights of people suspected to be LGBTI and/or those allying with the LGBTI community.”

It is in this context that Ugandan supporters of human rights, including LGBT rights, published an appeal to their local and international allies for help in fighting against the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Law, with guidelines about how best to do that.

Uganda's Red Pepper tabloid invented a "cabinet" of homosexuals for an article that endangered more LGBT people by publishing their names and photos.
Uganda’s Red Pepper tabloid invented a “cabinet” of homosexuals for an article that endangered more LGBT people by publishing their names and photos.

The hope, Philip said, is that international supporters can apply enough  pressure on the Ugandan government “to keep all of us safe and ensure that
our work and livelihoods are not adversely affected in the days and months
to come.”

At the same time, the Come Out Post Test Club is seeking financial help for its work supporting the health and safety of its HIV-positive membership.

The appeal states:

“Come Out Post Test Club is a transgender  and  MSM  organization that works with HIV-positive transgender and MSM  persons and also works on reducing the spread of HIV in the Ugandan transgender and MSM community.

“This campaign is aimed at raising funds to help relocate LGBT persons to safer places and rehabilitation, which will involve  psychological support, provide home-based care to our HIV-positive members who cannot go to hospitals for treatment, provide feeding to those in safe houses including nutritional supplement especially to those already on ARV treatment, buy airtime and Internet for coordination and also provide safe transport for our coordinators.”

The group proposes to provide mobile health services to address a “very common challenge” — serving HIV-positive people who are afraid to leave their homes to receive HIV-AIDS treatments at public clinics.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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