Ugandan LGBTI activist speaks out
about the horrors in her country
Uganda, 11 June 2014
by Kokeletso Legoete
Nabagesera, Ugandan human rights activist. Photo by Ayanda Msiza
Iranti recently had the privilege to talk to activist, Kasha Nebagasere about the conditions in Uganda for LGTBI people and about the anti-homosexuality act (#AHB), signed by President Yoweri Museveni on 24 February 2014.
Nebagasere and many other LGBTI persons’ lives have been under siege since the signing of the anti-gay bill in February. Her work as an activist is now perceived as illegal, prohibiting her from doing her work. Just recently, while she was out of her country, her landlord evicted her from her home.
“Landlords are required to report people perceived to be LGBT in their houses and if I stay, it is seen as 'promoting homosexuality'. Landlords are in danger if they rent rooms in their houses to people perceived to be gay,” Nebagasere says.
Anyone who talks positively about LGBTI issues could face seven years in jail, as this is perceived as promoting homosexuality.
The offices of her organization have also been closed and their materials destroyed. The environment has changed because of the new law. It is impossible for an LGBTI person or suspected LGBT persons, to find jobs and places to live. “Some (landlords) are doing this genuinely fearing jail for hosting LGBTI people but others are actually agree with homophobia and justifying it by evicting people. It is a two-way punishment,” Nebagasere explains.
People are being neglected and disowned by their families, leading to an increase in the number of attempted suicides. Recently a 17-year old boy died two weeks after being admitted to hospital following a failed suicide. LGBTI people have been taken and kept in torture houses, raped, beaten up and humiliated. Illegal arrests have also been taking place, where people are taken out of their homes at midnight and arrested.
People are also being forced to go for HIV testing and anal testing, to find out if they have been practicing homosexual acts. “My life has always been on the edge, but now there is actual danger and I fear for my life. People feel they can do anything to us because the government is on their side. They feel they can attack us as the government is saying ‘get rid of homosexuals’," Nebagasere says.
The media is not making it easier. In fact it has made the situation worse by printing names of people suspected or perceived to be gay in newspapers. A radio station has been suspended for hosting LGBTI people.
Despite all the doom and gloom, Nebagasere can see some positives coming from these problems. “Our voices are being heard around the world. With all the pressure, maybe one day we may see homosexuality being decriminalized in Uganda. We are already petitioning the penal code and we have also filed a petition in the South African court of to fight this.”
Nebagasere pleads with every LGBTI person and organisation in the world to stand in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBTI community, “We really need support from our partners in the country, in the region and also internationally. We need various kinds of help: for example, money to bail people out of jail or support for court cases. We also ask people out there who are from the LGBTI community, please to get in touch with us. Don’t be alone and don’t feel alone. We are here. We cannot solve every problem we are faced with, but we can be in it together, so that people don’t feel that they’re being abandoned.”
It takes bravery and courage for Nebagasere to speak out. She is in grave danger of being arrested. Regardless of the negative impact, Nebagasere believes that through solidarity and support, it is possible to work towards a positive outcome.