Being gay in Uganda could soon attract the death penalty. Knowing and not reporting that your sister is a lesbian could soon be punishable with a prison sentence. Kasha Nabagesera is the founder and head of an LGBT (Lesbian- Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) rights NGO called ‘Freedom and Roam Uganda’ that is fearlessly leading the fight against this legislation. Despite living with constant risks, Kasha is committed to being a voice for the voiceless.
Can you tell us a little about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament?
I feel my colleagues and I have reached a point where we see the Bill as just another project. It’s no longer something giving us sleepless nights. We need to fight it, to ensure it’s not passed. So we’re continuing with our lobbying, our one-on- one dialoguing with parliamentarians and policymakers, and we’re also continuing to sensitize the public, because a lot of support stems from a lack of awareness of what it actually entails. Most people are unaware that the Bill doesn’t only affect homosexuals. It’s not just about closing LGBT organizations down – it’s about all organizations working on sex- ual rights, it’s about all human rights organizations that work with LGBT people. The Bill requires individuals to report someone they suspect is homosexual.
We’re trying to do that, but it’s very difficult, because every time you attempt to use the media – which is a powerful tool to reach the masses – they say you’re promoting homosexuality. Many radio stations have been closed down or fined, radio hosts have been suspended for simply raising the issue. The Bill is threatening because of the way the parliamentarians support it, and those are the people we’re targeting to see if there’s scope for attitudinal change. It’s already causing a lot of problems for my community – many people have been attacked, because some members of the public think the Bill has been passed when they see politicians in Parliament jumping and clapping.
Do you think the people pushing the Bill are doing it because of their own personal views, or because they think it has popular support?
I think the people pushing it are really just fundamentalists trying to bring everyone on board. And they’re using a clever strategy to gain public support by saying we’re recruiting chil- dren. They’re showing pornography in church, telling people this is how homosexuals behave, this is what they’re doing to your children. So there’s a lot of support generated because parents are worried. They have the chance to continue their anti-gay messages because they’re prominent religious lead- ers, or people in government who have power. Who am I when I try to go through the media? I’m censored, I’m closed down. But for them, they do this every Sunday in church. They go on television and they’re given airtime. Last month they were calling on people to give them money to fight homosexuals, because homosexuals have money – that’s what they say. People like me, we’re just young activists fighting for our lives.
Where do you think this hatred comes from – is it historically rooted?
No, it’s not. In Africa, before, you would never talk about sexuality openly, but now the women’s movement is talking about wife-beating and sexual violence. Things are evolv- ing. This homophobia was actually imported. If you look back, we had kings who were homosexuals. Homophobia came with colonial laws, with religion. But most impor- tantly, in 2009 we had evangelists from the United States who came to Uganda and began telling people how homo- sexuals were coming to take over the whole country, to take over the whole world. They had breakfast meetings with parliamentarians. I attended a workshop where for three days they were brainwashing Ugandans, telling them how we work in abortion clinics because we don’t believe in fam- ilies. I sat for three days there and they took pictures with me and said, “by the way, we do not condemn you, we con- demn the act. We love you.” They brainwashed Ugandans into thinking we were sick.
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