Despite all odds, the fearless continue …. and the least we can do as an international community is support this imperative statement…
By Melanie Nathan, June 04, 2013.
Last year, despite the climate of fervent anti-gay hostility, Ugandan volunteer LGBT activists accomplished what seemed impossible – they launched the first every Gay Pride celebration in Uganda. Cloaked in secrecy, the Pride preparations began some months in advance, with a core few leading a determined community toward that successful day, which became known as Beach Pride Uganda. Almost a year has passed since, and the community is determined to hold its second such annual event.
After the historic Pride event and the attempts by Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Fr. Simon Lokodo, to shut it down, through a raid and arrests, I wrote an OPED piece for The Advocate, using the photographs of David Robinson. The article went viral, quickly recording well over 12,000 Facebook likes, many more than most Advocate Articles accomplish and many picked it up. It was then that it really hit home for me that Beach Pride Uganda was and will continue to be the ultimate symbol of LGBTI Pride, not only for the Ugandan community, but also the rest of the world. That is why it is imperative that this year, we do not wait for after the event to come and go to show our appreciation, but rather now, by donating to it. (See below). We must show our collective support; that we applaud the Ugandan Community for defying the odds and asserting its pride on all our behalves.
Until the U.S. Evangelicals, Lou Engle and Scott Lively went into Uganda preaching anti-gay hate back in 2008, Ugandans tolerated homosexuality, without giving it much attention and Uganda was not on the international LGBT map. Most of Africa had seemed not to care about gay relationships, notwithstanding that the British colonialists had left their mark, with penal codes that criminalized what was termed “acts against the order of nature,” which intended to criminalize the act of sodomy, and began to be interpreted as criminalizing homosexual relationships.
The aftermath of crazed workshops led by the Christian religious extremists Engle and Lively, as well as their meetings with and support of Ugandan politicians, led to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, which, despite numerous introductions into parliament, and enormous popularity, has yet to be made law. The Bill if passed, could impose the death penalty for so called “aggravated homosexuality,” life in prison for gays, lesbian bisexual and transgender people, as well as lengthy prison terms for families, friends, landlords, teachers, doctors and anyone in the community who fail to report “known homosexuals.” The new legislation would also make the so-called, (though impossible to define) act of “promoting” homosexuality, illegal.
It is in the context of frustration on the part of Ministers Simon Lokodo and David Bahati (the author of the bill) and Rebecca Kadaga (the speaker who promised and failed to see through its passage by last Xmas) as well as the general anti-gay climate, that makes the second annual Gay Pride in Uganda a major challenge for activists in Uganda.
The Ugandan LGBTI community is acutely aware that the government authorities, albeit unconstitutional, and despite a current lawsuit against Minister Lokodo, will do everything in their power to undermine Pride, with probable raids and arrests, just like last year. So again, as organizing continues, and despite the fact that there is nothing illegal under current law to prevent Pride, much must be done in privacy and secret.
Today I asked one of the Ugandan activists, Kasha Jaqueline to comment on what pride means to the Ugandan LGBTI community:
“We want to make a political statement that we are not ashamed of who we are but also at same time celebrate our diverse selves. We use pride week to merry make, share stories, meet friends and partner.”
Kasha told me that this year they are hoping for an even bigger turn out than last year as people are starting to understand the importance of pride and what it means. The gay community is so enthusiastic that the lead up fundraising parties are showing a great deal of interest and people are going out of their way to raise money to make it happen.
After the story was published in The Advocate, last year, the world was amazed at the extraordinary courage of the Ugandan community. A year later, my e-mail continues to overflow with requests by Pride groups, magazines and journalists from around the world, asking for permission to use the photos we published last year.
Even though still a target for threats, raids and arrest, with the anti-LGBT fervor in Uganda, the activists will not give up on expressing their pride with great risk while sharing their visibility. The tenacity lives on in this year’s planning. For many of us around the world, we take Gay pride for granted. Many of us just show up in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Long Beach, London, Cape Town, or Tel Aviv and elsewhere just to have fun. Others show up to express pride, gratitude or rally for equality. Yet in Uganda the holding of Pride, while indeed an expression of such, has the underlying plea for the right to survive and thrive without the taint of criminality on natural born sexual orientation.
Last year we did not ask for support and nor did I report the event in advance, even though I knew about it, to maintain the secrecy of the event. This year the activists are stepping up their bold determination and risk, by now asking publicly for the help they need to make it happen – and to make it even bigger and better. Though details of the event itself will be kept under wraps. The least we can do as an international community is support this imperative event.
Caveat: Please note that no single organization in Uganda is organizing Pride – it is being organized by individual volunteers in the community in their individual capacities as a gathering of friends. However donations can be made – Please DONATE now to Uganda Gay Pride 2013.
Kampala: The Pride committee of Pride Uganda is excited to announce that the dates for the second pride in Uganda have been set and will be from 31st July to 4th August 2013. It will be five(5) days of activities under the theme, “Still here, Still going strong”.
Article by Melanie Nathan, All rights Reserved 2013.©
Photos: Copyright David Robinson, 2012-2013.©
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