LGBT campaigners staged a Pride parade in Uganda at the weekend – despite the country being known for its widespread and violent homophobic and transphobic persecution. Danish journalist Mikkel Danielsen reports for PinkNews.co.uk.

“Today I can finally be myself. Usually I have to hide my sexuality to protect myself from being abused,” 26-year-old Rachel Newumbe says, while she is attaching a rainbow coloured flag to a white pick-up truck.

She is a lesbian, but it is only her immediate family and closest friends that know. If the rest of her friends and relatives find out, Rachel is afraid that they will turn their back on her. She did not dare tell anyone that she is participating in the Uganda Beach Pride 2013.

Rachel is taking part in the celebrations together with 200-300 other transgender and gay people, of which the majority are men. The parade is the main event ending the week long Pride festival in the capital city, Kampala. Many participants say, that the parade finally gives them a chance to be themselves and wear the clothes they want to, without fearing for their security.

“If I was walking around Kampala in these clothes in daylight, I am sure people would abuse me. Today I can finally show who I am,” says a transgender man, who only wants to be known as “Bad Black”, because he fears being attacked, when he returns to his usual life.

Uganda does not tolerate homosexuality

It’s the second time several Ugandan organisations for the country’s LGBT community have collaborated to arrange the Pride parade in the strongly homophobic country. In 2009, it was proposed in Parliament that homosexual behaviour should be punished with the death penalty, but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still under review. When the Ugandan police catch gay people they are often held at the police station for 2-3 days.

A study by Pew Research shows 96% of the population think that homosexuality should not be accepted in Ugandan society. To avoid confrontations with the rest of the population the parade takes place in a more sparsely populated area about 30 kilometres from Kampala. The parade is watched closely by six police officers, who shortened this years route to make sure LGBT participants would not come too close to the locals.

“Uganda is not yet mature enough for us to walk freely in the streets. But I hope it will be possible during the next five years for us to parade in Kampala,” says Kasha Jacqueline, who brought Pride to Uganda for the first time last year.

Gay people have to hide their sexuality 

Rachel Newumbe is also taking part in the parade for the second time. Here she has the chance to meet many of her friends that she is normally unable to see, because she is afraid being seen with them might reveal her sexuality.

“If my lesbian friends visit me at home, the rumours will quickly spread in the neighbourhood. When they find out that I am a lesbian, they will immediately kick me out of my apartment, and maybe they will beat me up,” Rachel Newumbe says.

Roughly every six months she moves to a new area of Kampala to avoid her neighbours becoming aware of her sexuality. She works as a DJ at a nightclub in Kampala, where even her colleagues do not know her sexuality. If the truth is revealed Rachel is certain that she will get fired.

“I just wish they will leave us alone. We are tired of hiding, because they cannot convert us anyway. We will always be homosexuals,” Rachel says, before she jumps in the back of the pick-up truck and joins the parade.