Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera: “I am no longer criminal, today we have made history”

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Some days the news is good. Today, that’s the case from Uganda. Last December, when the Uganda Parliament passed `ethics laws’, that, using the most vague and hence lethal language, threatened the LGBT communities with life in prison while also outlawing miniskirts, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, founder of FAR-Uganda, Freedom and Roam Uganda; Julian Pepe Onziema and Frank Mugisha, leaders of SMUG, Sexual Minorities of Uganda; joined forces with Professor Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma, indigenous civil society organizations, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). Together, they sued the Attorney General. Today, they won. The constitutional court declared the passing of the anti homosexuality bill into an act as null and void.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and all the activists know the struggle is not over. They know that the LGBT communities, and especially their leaders, will be attacked with even greater vehemence. According to Kasha Jacqueline, “Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members. People are going to retaliate — not just the members of parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”

But they know something else as well. You only win by pushing back and pushing forward. Kasha Jacqueline knows in advance that the government will petition the decision, as it did instantly. She knows that same-sex relationships, again still codified in the most ambiguous and hence lethal language, is still illegal. But she knows as well the great work of having faced down the State, the President, the Parliament, and everyone else who said she must just die, and the sheer joy of hearing the phrase “null and void.” The actions of those who would nullify her, of those who cast her into the void, are now null and void.

And Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera can laugh and cry and say, “I am no longer criminal, today we have made history for generations to come”. Some days, thanks to the work of women like Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the news is good. Today is one of those days.

 

(Photo Credit: https://orgs.law.harvard.edu/womeninspiringchange/)

 

Uganda’s Christmas gift? Homophobia, violence, pogrom, witch-hunt

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. Claire Byarugaba. Julian Pepe Onziema. Frank Mugisha. Geoffrey Ogwaro. These are the names of the most prominent gay activists in Uganda today, and they are under attack. Today, the Ugandan Parliament passed legislation, `ethics laws’, that threaten the LGBT communities with life in prison, and do so using the most vague, and hence most lethal, language. The law also outlaws mini-skirts. Of course. Because really, the biggest problems facing Uganda today are homosexuality and hemlines.

Three years ago Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, and David Kato sued a Ugandan tabloid for its “Hang the Gays” series in which it posted names, addresses, pictures of individuals reputed to be “gay”. Remarkably, they won the case.

Remarkably as well, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera helped found FAR-Uganda, Freedom and Roam Uganda; while Julian Pepe Onziema and David Kato led SMUG, Sexual Minorities of Uganda. David Kato was brutally murdered in January 2011.

Since then, the struggle for an end to the pogrom against LGBT people has waxed and waned, often deeply influenced by outside funders, and in particular those from the United States.

Gay activists organized and pushed back. For example, when the Minister for Ethics and Integrity broke up a gay rights workshop, run by FAR-Uganda, they sued. In fact, that case is meant to be decided next month. We’ll see.

This bill had been sitting in Parliament for two years. Last year, House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised passage as a “Christmas gift,” and today she delivered. No matter that the Parliament may not have had a proper quorum, no matter that proper procedures were scanted. What matters is “the gift.” After passing the bill, Parliament passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for “the gift.” Parliament was very excited to receive its gift.

And now the witch-hunt proceeds to the next level. Claire Byarugaba, of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, put it directly: “You need to deal with your personal security. Whereas we’d rather stay and fight, but we know that people in power are way too powerful, and they can push their agendas at any level. So, rather than be witch hunted in the country that I’ve grown up in, that I love, it would be important for me to get out of the country and re-strategise on the future of gay rights in Uganda.”

Claire Byarugaba

 

(Photo Credit 1: PRI) (Photo Credit 2: BBC)

Uganda is … A plea, a prayer, a demand, an invitation

An anti-homosexuality bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, many others have risen to support it. Remember that in Uganda, homosexuality is already a criminal offense. This `homosexuality’ is defined as engaging in same- sex sexual relations or being identified as such. The new proposed legislation adds a possible death sentence, and other niceties.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, SMUG, and Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UGANDA, have issued A CALL TO ACTION. It reads, in part:

“DENOUNCE THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN THE PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA. PROTEST AT THE UGANDA DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN YOUR COUNTRY

Dear Partners, Allies and Friends,

As you already know, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” was recently tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. The Bill’s provisions are draconian and among them are;

• Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;

• Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;

• Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;

• And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

• Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual
and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts
to combat the spread of HIV;

• All of the offences covered by the Bill as drafted can be applied to a Ugandan citizen who allegedly commits them – even outside Uganda!

The existing law has already been employed in an arbitrary way, and the Bill will just exacerbate that effect. There is a continued increase in campaigns of violence and unwarranted arrests of homosexuals. There are
eight ongoing cases in various courts. Four accused persons are unable to meet the harsh bail conditions set against them. As a result, Brian Pande died in Mbale Hospital on 13th September, 2009 as he awaited trial.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) calls upon you our partner, ally and/or friend to action. Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable.
Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety….

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the Uganda LGBTI community.

For more information, please contact:

Frank Mugisha 
fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org Tel: + 256 772 616 062

Valetine Kalende   vkalende@faruganda.org                  Tel: +256 752 324 249”

Any person alleged to be homosexual, any parent, any teacher, any landlord or landlady, any doctor or nurse or caregiver, any neighbor, any stranger.  Everyone, everywhere. Anyone, anywhere. A landscape of allegations, a horizon of torture and death.

Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UG, says its vision “is to build an organization, which will strive for the attainment of full equal rights of lesbians, bisexuals, Transgender and Intersexual (LBTI) women as well as the removal of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and Empower LBTI women.” Its mission is “to empower, lobby and press for the recognition of same sex relationships, especially lesbians in Uganda and thereby attain full equal rights and freedom in all aspects of life.”

Its aims and objectives include the following: “To integrate a legal, ethical and human rights dimension into the response to discrimination based on sexual orientation and also to equip them for full participation in the political, social, economical and health set up of Uganda. To create, raise and promote awareness of discriminated causes and effects in regards to LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersexuals) persons especially LBTI (lesbian bisexual, transgender and Intersexual) women in Uganda….To raise self-esteem among LBTI women in our society. To provide education, homes, jobs as well as health resources to the needy in this cause….To bring LBTI women in Uganda and those outside our borders together in order to build one great family. To advocate for the establishment of a legal framework to reach those in society that are legally and socially marginalized. To educate the general public on issues of human rights within the context of sexual orientation.”

Freedom and Roam Uganda is “the only all Lesbian, Bisexual Women, Transgender  and Intersex women’s organization in Uganda.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has a vision, “a liberated LGBTI people of Uganda.” Its mission “is to oversee and support member organizations to achieve their objectives aimed at LGBTI liberation.” SMUG has five objectives: “1. To advocate and lobby through coordinating efforts with local and international partners for the equality of all Ugandan irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, social status or creed. 2. To build and strengthen visibility through media and literature. 3. To fight against HIV and AIDS in LGBTI, MSM and WSW community. 4. To speak out on gender-based violence e.g: Homophobia 5. Empower activists through trainings on leadership, social entrepreneurship etc.” SMUG breaks its activities into five categories: “1. Litigation. 2. Research and Documentation. 3. Media Campaigns and debates. 4. Awareness and Outreach. 5. Mainstreaming with civil society and NGOs with similar goals.” Sexual Minorities Uganda concludes its introduction of itself to the world with this:

LET US LIVE IN PEACE

Is it a plea or is it a prayer, a demand or an invitation? Yes to each, yes to all, together.

Together

LET US LIVE IN PEACE

 

(Photo Credit: The Feminist Wire)