It’s Monday 08 August 2016. It’s a slow evening for me, drinking wine and eating chocolate, in the comfort of my home, wishing the evening away. And then Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity shows up on my TV screen. He is one of those perennially annoying things that I try to avoid at all costs, for self-preservation really. So I switched channels. Not long after that, I received a whatsapp message containing what was titled as ‘Government’s Position on activities of LGBT(s) in Uganda’. I was curious, I read. And I was immediately reminded of why I switched channels. Please find the statement here https://ugandamediacentreblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/government-position-on-the-activies-of-lesibians-gay-bi-sexuals-transgender-lgbt-in-uganda/
Just to bring you up to speed, Tuesday 02 August 2016 marked the official opening of Uganda’s pride week. This is a week set aside for a number of activities done to celebrate the identity and existence of one of (if not most) Uganda’s most intolerated communities. It is really a celebration of love, unity, courage, hope, perseverance and at the very minimum, life and existence. Thursday 04 August 2016 was the day designated for the 5th edition of Mr and Miss Pride. Yours truly (read ME) was co-hosting the event.
Just the decor at the venue was enough to make one jittery with pride! Pun intended! The rainbow colours were used extravagantly, the organisation was sleek, and I honestly looked forward to having a beautiful evening. The event started late but that was ok because when it did, it was worth the wait. Seeing gay men, transgender men and beautiful transgender women dressed in glam and slaying that runway was everything. Seeing them rock their identities and characters flamboyantly was consuming. They were beautiful. They were handsome. In those bodies, eyes and movements, you could see liberation, freedom, strength, courage and most of all PRIDE! It was a safe space…or so we thought!
I dont know what time it was. What I know is that I saw about four uniformed police officers holding Bad Black-Uganda’s most unapologetic transgender woman-and moving towards the front. I knew there was trouble. They came up to me and ordered me to stop the music, the event and announce that everyone was getting arrested. Frank Mugisha (Executive Director Sexual Minorities Uganda) was with us and we were later joined by one of the organisers and activist, Shawn Mugisha. To avoid the kind of frenzy that would be caused by doing what I was asked to do, we told police to let the event and the attendees be, and instead talk to us (we told them we were the organisers) and we sort whatever issue it was out. Long story short, we ended up locked up in police cells.
I had decided not to comment on the incident substantially, because many people had. And I was honestly exhausted. That was until I saw the bogus statement released by Lokodo. The statement says a plethora of things and throws around various allegations. I will deal with a few.
First off, this whole ‘foreign support’ business is getting stale. Lokodo and his cronies have made it a point to demonise the fact that LGBT activities are foreign funded. But what isn’t? Show me one thing in Uganda that is not foreign funded and I will show you a million that are. So this argument is nothing but a whole load of bull shit. Making LGBT persons look unacceptable merely because they get foreign funding is idiotic. Yes they do. But so what? Do the funders have an agenda? Yes they do. And that agenda is the same agenda they have when funding education and roads. It is the same agenda they have when funding anti-gay campaigns. So until you spit all donor money out of Uganda, don’t make noise about foreign support.
Secondly (yeah we’re going all the way) this good for nothing son of a good woman claimed there is no violence against LGBT persons in Uganda!!!!!! Are you fucking kidding me? No really, are you? Let’s keep this to just that event on Thursday! When we were being arrested we were brutally beaten. I remember one activist, Pepe Julian, who saw us being taken away and came to ask what was going on. He was badly kicked and slapped. For just asking! When any of us tried to ask why exactly we were being arrested, we were beaten and threatened. I cannot count the number of slaps and kicks dished out by DPC Mugerwa that night. Some of those arrested were roughed up and thrown under the seats on the patrol car, right on the floor of the car. All this accompanied with the constant slaps and kicks that were a matter of course.
We got to Kabalagala Police Station and word had already moved around that homosexuals were coming. Without boring you with details, I have never witnessed such indignity! Dear me! One of the officers took out a camera and started taking pictures. He took like 30 of them. They kicked one of the guys who was asking why he had been arrested (we found the poor guy with his friends on the stairs of Venom and went with them). They continued to slap and kick and threaten us. They see you texting someone on the phone and that’s a slap and a kick. All that wasn’t bad though, until they got to the transgender persons. I have no idea how many times Bad Black was undressed and fondled, and by how many officers! At some point I nearly broke down in tears. You know you can hate someone, but come on you can remain human! She was undressed just for the fun of it. She was fondled by the officers, touching and ‘weighing’ her genitals. She became some kind of amusement object. Any curious officer that walked in and wanted to satisfy their curiosity would just undress and fondle. It was heartbreaking!
The two transgender men were brutally beaten up in the cell they were detained in. They were detained with men who demanded that they undress and be checked. Of course they could not and they were thoroughly beaten. All this with the officers right there enjoying every moment and making lewd jokes in Lusoga about how the transgender persons needed to be raped to learn a lesson. In the meantime, DPC Mugerwa and some of his men had gone back to Venom and had stopped the event and harassed every one. They undressed transgender women and beat them up. They pulled out their hair, took their pictures etc. One of the revelers, out of fear, jumped off the fourth floor and was badly injured. He is still fighting for his life. All these were witnessed by sane people and some of it caught on camera. And this is in addition to the hundreds of documented cases of violations against LGBT persons (please contact me to give you this information). So for Lokodo to come out and say that there is no violence against LGBT people is not only stupid, but an insult to the people that have suffered at the hands of the state, because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation/gender identity.
Thirdly is this nonsense about recruiting people into homosexuality! I am a heterosexual woman, who has voluntarily worked with the LGBT community for over three years now and no one has ever tried to recruit me. Maybe I don’t even know what it means. Maybe. Mbu people are induced with money. Like who? Why don’t you show some evidence? This is propaganda that has been spewed around by anti-gay groups and is being believed by people. Idiots like Lokodo are perpetrating and sanctioning the violations of LGBT people based on evidence-less nonsense. On that evening, I dare one of the police officers to come and tell us who they found being recruited. Honestly these events are not even advertised to the public and you say they are used to mobilise people into homosexuality? How? Why dont you arrest anyone you find recruiting and prosecute them? All you do is continuously allege that this is being done but you have never shown anyone that you found doing it. Bare your backsides idiots. We’re tired of the talk.
I could go on and on about this Lokodo thing of a human being and the ignorance, hypocrisy and the lies it and its cohorts go on spewing. But I am too angry to do that now. What I can say is that we get it! You have opinions. You’re moral. You’re religious. You’re cultural. You’re hypocrites. We fucking get it. But while you are busy proving points and living your opinions, people are suffering. People are being abused. LGBT persons have done no wrong to anyone. They abuse children? How many heterosexual men are raping and defiling girls and women? How come you are still proudly heterosexual? Honestly what have LGBT people done to deserve this amount of hate? If you hate them, fine. No one is forcing you to like them. But should someone be beaten up, humiliated and imprisoned because you don’t like them? Where is the morality or religion in that? Why the heck don’t you keep your opinions to yourself?
LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE. And FYI, LGBT people don’t need rehab. They are fine. They need respect. What was a beautiful celebration on Thursday turned into a gruesome reminder that a lot still needs to be done. And we won’t stop. I will not stop. You can harass us. You can beat us. You can arrest us. You can do whatever the heck you want. We are here. We are not going anywhere. We shall continue advocating for a world of respect for everyone. So Lokodo, Shut Up. Please!