By Melanie Nathan, November 18, 2013.
Obscuring the photo of a gorilla in the window, an enticement for London’s tourists to keep Uganda’s safari and wildlife tourism going strong, were a group of LGBT human rights defenders and allies, protesting the horror that is now impacting Uganda’s LGBT community. Many gay people are waiting in fear, to see whether the current spate of anti-gay witch hunts against a local human rights defender, and a citizen of the United Kingdom, will result in life in prison sentences.
The group is pictured protesting outside the Ugandan High Commission in London’s Trafalgar Square, to protest against “Uganda’s witch-hunts and show trials of LGBT people.” The protest was timed to coincide with two separate and suspect anti- gay court cases that took place in Uganda today, respectively involving Sam Ganafa, the executive director of an LGBT organization and Bernard Randall, a British ex-pat living in Uganda..
The protesters chanted: “Free Sam! Free Bernard! Uganda – Repeal anti-gay laws” and “2-4-6-8. Uganda stop the hate. 3-5-7-9. Gay love is not a crime.”
Ugandan gay rights leader Samuel K Ganafa appeared in court at Nabweru today, over allegedly trumped up accusations of sodomy and infecting a man with HIV. He was remanded in Kasangati prison until his next court date, 25 November. At least three of his colleagues may also face charges. Ganafa is the executive director of Spectrum Uganda and the Chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). See background: http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/11/15/outrage-in-ugandan-lgbt-community-as-activist-faces-possible-life-in-prison/
The trial of a retired expatriate British gay man, Bernard Randall, and his Ugandan friend, Albert Cheptoyek, was adjourned this morning until 4 December at the Entebbe court. Bernard faces charges of trafficking obscene publications. This charge relates to private, intimate videos. These videos only became public and police knowledge after Bernard’s laptop was stolen and his personal videos were leaked to the media. Albert is being charged with gross indecency. See background: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/14/gay-briton-uganda-sex-images-jail
These charges and court cases are the latest examples of a sustained campaign of state-sponsored harassment of LGBT people and activists in Uganda.
One wonders if this is a political rally cry by proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, otherwise known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” which has yet to pass the Ugandan Parliament, since Speaker Kadaga failed to deliver on her promise that the Bill would be last year’s Xmas gift to Uganda.
“We are protesting against the homophobic witch-hunts and show trials in Uganda. These prosecutions violate Uganda’s own constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, both of which guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. The criminalisation of homosexuality is contrary to these human rights obligations, which Uganda has agreed and pledged to uphold. All charges should be dropped and Uganda’s colonial-era anti-homosexual laws repealed,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who attended and spoke at today’s protest.
“Uganda is known as one of the worst countries in the world to be gay. The maximum penalty for same-sex relations is life imprisonment and a bill before the parliament in Kampala proposes the death penalty for repeat homosexual offenders. In addition, there are widespread homophobic threats and mob violence – often fuelled by anti-gay Christian fundamentalists who are supported by right-wing evangelical pastors in the US,” said Mr Tatchell.
Richard Banadda from the African LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and inter-sex) Out & Proud Diamond Group who coordinated today’s London protest, said:
“Our demonstration urged:
- The immediate release of Samuel K Ganafa and others, plus the release of Bernard Randall and Albert Cheptoyek
- The British government to intervene immediately in case of Bernard Randall to secure his safe return to the UK.
- Britain and the EU should declare Uganda as unsafe for LGBTI people and issue warnings to LGBTI people travelling to Uganda as tourists or living there as expatriates.
- The government of Uganda should decriminalise homosexuality and legislate protection against discrimination for LGBTI people.
- The British government and EU should impose a travel ban on Ugandan extremists who incite homophobic hatred and whose inflammatory statements fuel anti-gay violence, such as Pastor Martin Ssempa, Rev Minister Francis Lokodo, Pastor Solomon Male, MP David Bahati and others. A similar travel ban should apply to US pastors who have stirred up hatred of LGBTI people in Uganda and contributed to the climate of bigotry, repression and violence.”
Edwin Sesange, Director African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group noted:
“It was hypocritical for the British Prime Minister David Cameron to join with the leader of Uganda at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, while a British citizen is fearing for his life and liberty because of his sexuality. He should have spoken out at CHOGM against homophobic persecution in Uganda – and in other Commonwealth member states.”
Today’s London protest was jointly organized by the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Photos: Courtesy Peter Tatchell Foundation.