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Action Alert, Africa LGBTIQ, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Queer Politics

Ugandan homosexuals: “Let us live in peace”

Press Release by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Thursday, 16 August 2007

In a landmark case, we, Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people assembled at the High Court of Uganda two months ago to reinforce our right to privacy, dignity, and property. There were no charges against us. We had done nothing wrong.

It is the government who had to answer for illegal behaviour of its agents by discriminating against homosexual and transgender people. Government officials raided the home of Victor Juliet Mukasa, an LGBT Human Rights Defender, in 2005, and illegally arresting a guest they found in her home. They forced their way into Victor’s home, stole many work documents, dragged her guest to Kireka police post, and forced the guest to strip naked in order to prove that she was a woman. The guest and Victor Juliet Mukasa were treated in a degrading and inhumane way. Many of us, as the Ugandan LGBTI community, have suffered similar injustice. We are here today to proclaim that these human rights violations are completely unacceptable. We have had enough of the abuse, neglect, and violence.

No person should be deprived of their constitutional rights; and homosexuals and transgender people are no exception. All people are equal under the law.

Therefore, we step into the public today to give a face to the many who are discriminated against every day in our country. Some of us have brought our faces before you for you to know us. But many of us come before you today with masks to represent the fact that you see homosexuals and transgender people every day without realising that it is what we are. We do not harm anyone. We are your doctor, your teacher, your best friend, your sister, maybe even your father or son.

As Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the umbrella organisation for Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex organisations, there are two urgent issues we would like you to consider.

HIV/AIDS is a concern for all of us in this country. And yet many people ignorantly turn a blind eye as we die of HIV/AIDS because we as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people do not have proper access to protection, care, and treatment. We cannot continue to ignore the people in this country who are most at risk because of unfair discrimination and stigma. To successfully stop HIV/AIDS, we must treat every person with the dignity and attention they deserve. No one can justify taking away a person’s right to live, when protection and treatment should be readily available to all.

Secondly, as Sexual Minorities Uganda, we would like to publicly acknowledge the police for their leadership in reinforcing justice in this country by speaking out against hate crimes and discrimination of human beings because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Leaders in the police force have recently made great steps toward upholding the law in a just and fair manner, providing equal protection for all people against harm. Likewise, we also urge LDUs to help to end the persecution of minorities, particularly lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and intersex people, by acting in an upright and lawful manner in the course of their duties, respecting and protecting the dignity of all human beings.

Finally, to our communities, our schools, places of work, our families, we would like to end by passing on the wisdom of so many of our parents, who have known us and seen that we are born this way and are still their beloved children. Don’t lay a hand on us, we are the homosexual and transgender children of God. God created us as this way as LGBTI, all we ask is Let Us Live In Peace.

My name is Larry. I am an LGBTI Human Rights Defender from Kenya.

Across East Africa, we are many who were born like this. We are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and intersex Africans who come from villages that are very far, who come from trading centers, and some who even come from large cities like Kampala, Dar es Salam, and Nairobi.

But our traditions of loving each other come from very far back in our African history, before the colonialists ever entered our land. Many of our ancestors in our tribes across East Africa were the way we are. They were born like this. We were accepted in our communities before the colonialists came, and we come before you today to ask you for that same acceptance that was part of our African culture before we were destroyed by laws from the West. Because of the prejudice brought by the West, we have been threatened, intimidated, and harassed.

I stand today from Kenya in solidarity with the LGBTI people in East Africa to proclaim that these human rights violations are completely unacceptable. We have had way much enough of the abuse, neglect, and violence. In fact, our leaders have recognized this and made our East African countries signatories of international agreements to end such discrimination.

There is need for liberation in East Africa as a whole. Just as if people were starving in Kenya, but had plenty to eat here, we would still fight against poverty in our region.

This can be seen as in the LGBTI court case where Victor’s guest who is a Kenyan was treated in a degrading and inhumane way and is standing in solidarity to hold the Ugandan government officials accountable in court for violations of our rights.

It is a very clear case. Government agents violated the rights of Victor Juliet Mukasa and her guest in the following ways:

* First, illegal search of the home of Victor Juliet Mukasa without a search warrant and unauthorized seizure of items from the house amounting to trespass and theft
* Secondly, illegal arrest of the guest found in the home at the time of the raid
* And then, there was also inhuman and degrading treatment of Victor and the guest amounting to sexual harassment and indecent assault

The basic rights enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda protect all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:

These Constitutional Rights include:

* Article 23 is about protection of personal liberty
o (1) No person shall be deprived of personal liberty . . .
* Article 24 talks about respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment
o It states that no person shall be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
* Article 27 talks about the right to privacy of person, home and other property
o (1) states that No person shall be subjected to-
+ (a) unlawful search of the person, home or other property of that person;
+ (b) Unlawful entry by others of the premises of that person. Property.
o (2) No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

There have been two hearings of the case; we are waiting for the next hearing soon, where the government is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did not violate these rights. We hope the judgment will be free from any prejudice and that justice will prevail. I am a tax payer, I am your doctor, I am your brother, and I am your mother. Does this make me a lesser being? Why would we choose to go through such pain and suffering if we had a choice? LGBTI rights are not special rights, but are fundamental Human Rights for heavens sake, CAN’T you Let Us Live in Peace ?

I am your teacher, those are my names. I am going to talk about violence in schools.

Since in Uganda, just listening to something to do with Homosexuality is a taboo, sexual diversity is widely misunderstood!

Although am not advocating for sex in schools, its rather a reality that sex goes on in schools and unlike heterosexual students or pupils getting lesser punishments, Homosexual students are indefinitely suspended.

This discrimination has brought about innocent young pupils, students, dying in cold blood at their tender age still trying to find out and understand their sexuality as you have all gone through this transition (process) before.

A young girl in Nsambya Girls few years back was beaten when found she was a lesbian from the Head teacher to the cook, the intimidation and stress she went through led her into overdosing herself with chloroquine and later she died.

Gabula a girl from Concerted Ntinda School last year was teased and the Head teacher in the process of extracting information from her whether she was a lesbian hit her badly and later she died in Mulago Hospital.

The Durban girls in Busia were thrown out of school, two Kitovu boys in Masaka last month were thrown out of school, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many students have been beaten almost to death and fear to return to school. Discrimination against access to resources and worse still denial to education are human rights violations!

Yet all these things are happening to school children without anyone stepping up, even though everyone agrees that it is wrong to kill a child or push a child to the point of killing herself or himself.

In schools health education and other norms of society are given with a biased approach against the gays and lesbians so that HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases are rampart in our pupils/students since are not allowed the right to the right tools, right lubricants but use Vaseline, avocado and other funny funny things which makes them vulnerable to the diseases.

Even in our higher institutions of learning, there is malice whereby lecturers deny students marks because of their sexual orientation.

Mind you these are our children, your children with a brain to be doctors, lawyers, teachers and leaders of tomorrow.

So we are loosing valuable brains, let’s check and respect our kids, pupils, students regardless of their sexual diversity. The reality is homosexuals exist in our schools. Expelling them, only keeps them from education. Pushing them to kill themselves only makes us loose precious lives. Let all our students live in peace.

4 Comments

  1. Peter

    Nigeria is even worse. Such heck of a nasty nation is considering laws against
    (a) two gay people dining in public
    (b) publishing/owning gay-related material (gay porn or even gay lib mterial)
    (c) maintaining/surfing gay-related web sites
    (d) renting or selling flats or houses to gay couples.

    What more could I do apart from calling a global boycott from the worldwide gay community and pray to God for the GLBT brothers and sisters there?

  2. Erica

    As European LGBTI communities have already gone through a lot of what African LGBTI people are currently experiencing, I can empathise with you all most sincerely.

    I am currently studying a law degree specifically on Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights, and for my dissertation I have chosen to look at the barriers to human rights faced by sexual minorities in post-colonial Africa.

    I am interested in learning more about your experiences and the barriers you face to human rights – whatever the rights. For example, whether it’s the right to live a private life, the rights to housing, education and health services (including HIV AIDS education and services).

    I am aware that many of your laws are still based on the laws from the days of colonial rule, but I am interested to know how much influence religion plays in changing these laws or drafting new ones.

    Do you think international human rights mechanisms (such as the UN) can help you, or should the fight for rights come from within your country or Africa?

    If you want to share any information with me, please be assured that I will keep all your details completely confidential. In fact you don’t have to give me your name – just let me know your country, age, gender and how you define your sexuality.

    Thank you.

    african.humanrights@yahoo.co.uk

  3. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    Erica @ I have posted your comment on a HRD listserve should anyone wish you address your questions they will contact you.

    The situation in Uganda is getting worse as there has been a demand for the arrests of lesbians and demonstrations against homosexuals.

  4. lovett

    i want to be amember