Pride was canceled in Uganda after a brutal police raid on a party, but activists say they hope it will go on later this year—and the fight for equality and justice continues.”>
Part-way through my Skype interview with Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), in Kampala, Uganda, a dogs loud, insistent barking began. Startled, Jjuuko looked away from the camera.
He was not, however, at home and it was not a family pet. Jjuuko was at work, and what my camera could not see were, he told me, the three rows of barbed wire atop the high fences outside his office, the two security guards, the CCTV cameras, the alarm system, the reinforced metal bars on all the windows and doors and the dog. Every day you get used to your prison: we know this is what it is, said Jjuuko.
Campaigning for LGBT equality in Uganda is a brave, dangerous profession, and one done dedicatedly by Jjuuko, his HRAPF colleagues, and figures like Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), and organizations like Pride Uganda and Chapter Four.
Our guard was killed right here in May, said Jjuuko, explaining the security procedures. They [the attackers] left a huge iron bar behind. They spread my documents everywhere and took nothing else. That was very chilling. We saw them [the attackers]. There were four of them. The police are doing absolutely nothing to investigate that case. They have fingerprints, blood samples, pictures, CCTV footage. I have to be strong for my staff. I have been working on LGBT rights for more than eight years now. We have to speak out and engage, because we believe it is right thing to do.
Uganda is one of 33 African countries with anti-homosexuality laws. Jjuuko insists that positive change will come in time, and said that before the recent raid on a Uganda Pride-related party, which Frank Mugisha wrote powerfully about in The Guardian, he was optimistic that the fight for LGBTI rights in Uganda was on an upward curve since the successful quashing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) of 2014.
Isaac Mugisha of Pride Uganda told The Daily Beast that the group still planned to hold a Pride event later this year, having had to cancel its planned rally after the police brutally raided a party earlier this summer.
We are in negotiations with police and ministers about when it will be. It might be very soon, in October. That is what we are thinking for now. We are very hopeful, he said. The event, he told The Daily Beast, would be a parade incorporating a march, a holy communion service, and festival as well.
The party targeted by the authorities took place on Aug. 4, three days into Uganda Pride week, a Mr/Ms/Mx Pride beauty pageant event at Venom nightclub in the Kampala suburb of Kabalagala. Sixteen people were arrested after police, armed to the teeth as Mugisha put it, walked into the event.
Campaigning group Chapter 4 said the police claimed that they had been told a gay wedding was taking place and that the celebration was unlawful because police had not been informed (police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events were conducted without incident on Tuesday and Wednesday nights).
There had been around 200 people there, who were locked inside, and detained for an hour. Some had photographs taken of themselves by officers without their consent, according to a statement by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), with officers taunting them their identities could be revealed.
In Frank Mugishas account, he writes about seeing transgender people being beaten and touched inappropriately by police officers to establish their real gender. He was insulted, abused, and with other arrestees taken to a police station where they were humiliated and intimidated.
One man, trying to escape the beatings by police at the venue, hurled himself from the fourth floor, breaking two vertebrae; his treatment will cost $5,000.
At the police station, according to CSCHRCL, two transgender men and one transgender woman were subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment when they were groped and strip-searched by policemen. They were also beaten by the police and other inmates.
Another attendee of the party, who requested anonymity, related to The Daily Beast that they, too, had been beaten by police until blood was coming from all parts of my body.
In the aftermath of the raid has come an understandable nervousness, as well as a determination on the part of activists to continue their work.
The situation is calm, Isaac Mugisha said of the LGBT communitys response to the raid. Of course, the police raid left a lot of problems for people and a lot of community members scared. People are vigilant, looking around, and some are still in hiding. It was quite a scary moment for them.
For a long time, the police had not done anything like this to the LGBT community, so it was shock for us when they actually appeared. We have achieved a lot for the movement, so whatever happened was a wake-up call to us, about dealing with police and political leaders are still very homophobic.
The international outcry over the polices actions had had a positive effect, he added.
Before the party raid, LGBTI life had been more settled, said Jjuuko. After the abolition of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, there was a rest period where police were not harassing people. The harassment was from private individuals mostly. It was more relaxed. Now there is tension, members of organizations are in hiding.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act had sought to enshrine in law a number of homophobic measures around what it bizarrely termed aggravated homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality, attempt to commit homosexuality, and conspiracy to engage in homosexuality, and promotion of homosexuality.
The proposed law became known as the Kill the Gays bill, as one of the proposed penalties for homosexuality was execution (as well as life imprisonment).
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