My life as a gay Ugandan

Published on Pambazuka News, by Kasha Jacqueline, February 17, 2011.

In January, a judge ruled in favour of a group of gay individuals stating that all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation, have a right to privacy and dignity. One of the plaintiffs recounted her story to the Kampala Dispatch … //

… Let me be clear: I have never at any one time in my affidavit denied my sexual orientation. Our issue concerned the rights that Ugandans should have to be protected from the incitement of violence and violation of our privacy. No one should ever wake up and see a call for violence and his home address published in a newspaper.


During the case, I spent all the little money I had to have safe transport, and stopped moving to my local open places because of fear of what could happen to me in case someone identified me. Because of my human rights work defending sexual minorities, it’s always my face that is flashed on TV every time someone talks about homosexuality.

In November, the judge placed an injunction against The Rolling Stone that prohibited them from publishing any more photos of people. But, in December, the court case grew very ugly. The court proceedings were postponed five times, and each time incurred expenses and allowed for many ugly acts of harassment outside the court.

Once, the anti-gay pastor Solomon Male ambushed me outside the court to engage in a very ugly public argument with me about Pastor Kayanja and how we (homosexuals) had taken over all government posts and cannot be touched – which is ridiculous, as I had just been pushed around by court security not five minutes before.
Finally, on 3 January 2011 the judge offered his ruling in our favour. The ruling was virtually ignored by the local press, but the international media covered it extensively because of its far reaching implications for Ugandans.
The ruling clarified an important nuance of the law: while certain homosexual acts may still be illegal (a penal code act which we are currently fighting), maintaining a homosexual identity is not. In Uganda, a person is free to identify themselves however they please, and cannot be persecuted for it. Therefore, a newspaper like The Rolling Stone cannot incite violence against innocent citizens, and cannot invade their privacy.

On my own behalf, and on behalf of my two fellow plaintiffs – David Kato and Pepe Onziema – as well as the entire LGBT community of Uganda, we would like to welcome the verdict of this case. It has taken courage and bravery to stand up for justice. The support from the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, from our families, and from allies near and far cannot go unnoticed. This verdict has shown that indeed, justice is possible in this world and more so in this country. Coming from a marginalised community, many people have taken advantage of our oppression to satisfy their political, economic, and social greed and bigotry. We are victims of oppression in so many ways. And for being just who we are, many have turned us into targets of oppression. But we refuse to be silent. The stories of people fighting against injustice have always been about a minority, because social justice struggles are fought by a minority for a majority.

The court verdict reminded us all that Uganda is no place for hatred and impunity. Irresponsible journalism has no place in this country. The Rolling Stone tabloid and its editors may not have anticipated that they would be victims of their own actions, but we would never wish for or call for them to be “hanged.” A media that is based on untruthfulness is an enemy of the nation. Let this be the beginning of responsible journalism for justice and equality.

On 10 December 2010, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on all countries to decriminalise homosexuality during his key Human Rights Day address. Mr. Ban Ki Moon said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, “is not called the partial declaration of human rights. It is not the sometimes declaration of human rights. It is the universal declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights – without exception.”

But one verdict does not mean that we have won the struggle. We still have a lot of sensitising to do, especially to the people in rural areas, before people fully understand just how big a lie The Rolling Stone published. We have to know that we are all different in many ways and that we cannot all be the same. My hope is that we can learn to live together in this beautiful country of ours without stigma and discrimination but with respect and tolerance.

Again, I would like to thank all those who continue to walk the journey to freedom with us. You are the true heroes and sheroes. Let justice reign. (full long text).

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