This is the first in a series of extracts from the Queer African Reader
David Kato submitted this short essay to the editors of the Queer African Reader just a month before he was murdered on 26 January 2011. David Kato was a teacher and prominent LGBTI activist in Uganda who served as advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Just weeks before his death, David won a landmark case against a Ugandan tabloid newspaper that published pictures of 100 people, including David, in an article calling for the hanging of lesbian and gay Ugandans. This essay is published here, with very few edits, in remembrance of David Kato and all those who have fallen in the struggle for LGBTI equality.
In this country, it is absurd that as the LGBTI community strives to liberate its community to attain not special rights but equal rights like others, they are caught up in a dilemma. Having sodomy laws and oppressive laws (which have long been repealed at their countries of origin!), the massive investment by foreign religious groups in African communities, the recent spread of homophobia promoting sustained hatred and the global reproduction of homophobia institutionally by American Evangelicals, has made matters worse for the survival of the LGBTI community in such countries.
In the name of protecting a traditional family, the Evangelicals recently prompted the drafting of the anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan parliament as a private member’s bill which affects not only the LGBTI community but, if passed, will have global repercussion to the entire community. This is why there is need to approach and confront the bill as a global problem with global repercussions. There is also need to use vibrant and outspoken ways to speak about the bill not simply as ‘expressing homophobia’ but as promoting sustained hatred and violence. There is a great need to raise debate about global systems that currently work to reproduce homophobic authoritarianism throughout the world.
In Uganda, as the LGBTI community has become more visible in regard to demand for inclusion in government health strategies, in the fight to close all gaps of HIV spread, legislators have come up with legislations of criminalising even consensual same sex proposing a death penalty!
This has made many return to the closet and made more vulnerable to the scourge. Some have been arrested, harassed, detained and some have died in the process. Many thrown out of homes, houses, schools and others humiliated (canned in public, raped) like there is institutionalised homophobia since fueling it is by policy makers and the perpetrators have gone on with impunity! Lesbians raped by family members and others in the name of curing them from lesbianism and in process catching HIV!
Such allegations have been made once at Mbale court where Late Brian Pande and Wasukire Fred were charged with carnal knowledge against the order of nature and the police surgeon had this to tell court:
He found one of them with no STD but on second test he found both with STDs.
He found one with a wound at his anus
He found one bleaching his face
So with this concluding that the two guys had had sex together.
In response as the magistrate asked for sureties to give the two court bail, one prominent advocate in court asked the magistrate not to bail the two since within a week the whole town of Mbale was to be full of homosexuals and so the two should die in prison! No wonder Pande died weeks after getting out of Maluku prisons where we had been refused to see them when we visited. Contradicting reports from hospital, his death certificate saying he died of meningitis, which they had not checked for yet, and police surgeon saying that, with a well nourished body, he died of anemia!
It is strange that as we followed up the Mbale case and had not known who Fred was, as we asked for Fred as we had seen in the media, we were told that the person we wanted was a man but has always lived looking like a woman! One wonders if he had lived in the same community up to more than 30 years, what harm had he done! Only fuelling of hate in public by religious fundamentalists and policy makers have sparked off such hate!
Legislation created without the inclusion of the marginalised community is undemocratic, the bill itself is unconstitutional since advocates for discrimination, has not followed or respected the international principles and not followed Ugandan law. Generally the state and situation is alarming and much there is a great need to fight to deter the bill which is complicated since any civil society to lay a hand in this fight is taken to be promoting homosexuality which is to be criminalised according to the last communication by the minister of foreign affairs!
Thanks to the efforts, courage and struggle of the LGBTI community in Uganda, activists, artists, religious leaders, allies and policy makers across Uganda, Africa and the world, the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has not been passed at the time of writing. However, the danger and threat still looms as more and more countries across the continent continue to threaten similar legislation and incite violence and persecution of those perceived to be of non-heteronormative sexualities and transgressing gender identities.