Gay rights activists in Uganda have come together to create a Chapter of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) and take part in a landmark debate organised by Queer Youth Uganda.
The climate for LGBT people in the country is extremely hostile, and attacks from the media, religious groups and the government are commonplace.
Despite this, more than 100 activists and supporters gathered in the capital Kampala to debate the way forward for gay rights in Uganda.
Pastor Kiyimba Yususf Brown, who is the country co-ordinator for IDAHO, commented:
“Never before has there been such a far-reaching, well-organised and professional gay public debate in this country.”
Among the organisations present were Open Door Counselling Ministries, Spectrum-Uganda, Queer Youth Uganda, Ice Breakers and Uganda Youth Health.
The conference was addressed by East Africa International Lesbian and Gay Association representative Sam Ganafa and Sam Opio, chairperson of Queer Youth Uganda, an organisation concerned with youth health and rights.
The guest speaker, Professor Louis-Georges Tin, international co-ordinator of IDAHO, stressed the need for unity among LGBT people and other human rights campaigners and spoke about the achievements of IDAHO to date.
He called on the United Nations to adopt a resolution for the “Universal Decriminalisation of Homosexuality.”
Derek Lennard, IDAHO UK co-ordinator, commented:
“The fact that this meeting took place at all is astonishing. It is clearly up to campaigners in Uganda to decide how they can address the oppression they face.
“However, I am sure that all those involved in IDAHO campaigns and initiatives in the UK will want to support them in whatever ways we can, and express our pride in working alongside them to fight the international scourge of homophobia and transphobia.”
Earlier this month a senior politician in Uganda pledged to block gay rights in the country.
James Nsaba Buturo, Minister for Ethics and Integrity, told All Africa news agency that the government is committed to stopping LGBT people “trying to impose a strange, ungodly, unhealthy, unnatural, and immoral way of life on the rest of our society.”
2007 has seen the first gay rights press conference and the first anti-gay rally in Uganda.
In August gay rights activists in spoke out about the prejudice LGBT people face in the country.
30 people gave a press conference drawing attention to the state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia they face every day.
They called themselves the “homosexual children of God” and demanded that attacks on LGBT people stop.
Ugandan law outlaws homosexuality as “against the order of nature.”
Trans people are also targeted by police and regularly subject to abuse and harassment.
The following week churches in the country showed their disapproval with a demonstration organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council.
There has been rising tension in the country over gay and lesbian rights.
Last year thirteen alleged lesbians were outed by the tabloid newspaper Red Pepper.
There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the last few years, including an illegal police raid on the home of Victor Juliet Mukasa, in July 2005.
In September Red Pepper ran another “expose” of prominent gay and lesbians, under the headline “HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City.”
They claimed to have “full names, workplaces, cars they drive and even where they stay.”
As well as describing 40 men it claims are gay, Red Pepper’s “expose” explains “how to spot a gay man,” “terminologies used by gays” and “how the gay men shaft,” a lurid description of gay sex.
It claims that lubricants are “sent to the gays here from abroad.”
The International Day Against Homophobia is May 17th.