“We have the right to exist!” Protests against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill


Protestors demonstrate against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill outside the UN offices in Pretoria (Photo: Luiz De Barros)

Protestors gathered in Pretoria and Cape Town on Friday to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was passed by the country’s Parliament and is now awaiting the signature of President Yoweri Museveni.

The demonstrations, spearheaded by Access Chapter 2 (AC2), were supported and organised by a collective of more than 50 South African and regional civil society groups to show their solidarity with queer Ugandans.

In Pretoria, activists, members of the LGBTO+ community and allies braved wet and cold weather to picket outside the offices of the United Nations.

They sang songs and held up rainbow flags and placards with slogans like “Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a violation of Human rights”, “gay lives matter” and “free queer people”.

They called on member states of the United Nations, the African Union, and world leaders to speak out and take action against Uganda if the horrific bill is made law by President Museveni.

Steve Letsike, Director of AC2, said the government of Uganda must be held accountable. “Uganda is a member of the United Nations where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is critical,” she pointed out. “We cannot sit here in silence while our siblings in Uganda are under threat.”

Letsike told Mamba that “the bill doesn’t respect freedom, equality, privacy and the right to life,” adding, “We are here to say, stand up, rise up until Uganda is free!”

In Cape Town, a second group marched to Parliament to urge the South African government and President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has remained silent on the issue, to condemn the legislation.

Dozens of demonstrators marched to Parliament in Cape Town demanding that the South African government speaks out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Photo: Larissa Donald)

The collective presented memorandums to a representative of the United Nations in Pretoria and Collen Mahlangu, the Undersecretary of the National Assembly, in Cape Town.

In the documents, the collective said that if President Museveni signs the bill into law, “Uganda will become a police state, as the laws force citizens to turn on each other to report any known LGBTQ+ persons and activity.”

The groups warned that not only will the bill jail LGBTQ+ people and execute repeat “offenders”, but it will also impact freedom of speech and limit access to health care by LGBTQ+ Ugandans.

Papa De, a Ugandan non-binary queer photojournalist, spoke to Mamba about the dangerous hysteria spread by Ugandan politicians and religious leaders claiming that LGBTQ+ people are “recruiting” children in schools.

“No one is recruiting your children,” they asserted. “I grew up in a church, I was in a choir and I still turned out as I am. Homosexuality is not a cult that you can be converted to. It’s who you are!”

Papa De said that queer Ugandans feel that they have no right to exist. “We are not entitled to education, we are not entitled to shelter, and we are not entitled to medication. We deserve the right to live like anyone else! We can’t stand and be silent anymore.”

The collective requested a response from the member states of the United Nations, the African Union and President Ramaphosa to their demands within seven working days.

If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law it will impose the following penalties:

  • Engaging in a homosexual sexual act: life in prison
  • Attempting a homosexual sexual act: 10 years in prison
  • Aggravated homosexuality (e.g. serial offender): death penalty
  • Children under 18 engaging in a homosexual act: up to 3 years in prison
  • Providing accommodation to an LGBTIQ+ person: 10 years in prison
  • Taking part in or organising a same-sex marriage: 10 years in prison
  • “Promotion” of homosexuality: 20 years in prison
  • Not reporting an LGBTIQ+ person: a fine or 6 months in jail

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