Updated: Jan 28, 2020
It is exciting times at ReportOUT! Every year, we engage with a 'special project' in a different nation state in order to work with SOGI organisations on the ground. For 2020 we have chosen Uganda. ReportOUT have teamed up with our dedicated collaboration partners; Kuchu Shiners Uganda, Out and Proud Uganda, Let's Walk Uganda and COSF (Children of the Sun Foundation). The aim of this project is to develop a nation state report on the lived experiences of SOGI people in Uganda, whilst working in partnership with SOGI organisations to develop it.
SOGI people and their sexual behaviour were widely accepted and commonplace amongst various tribes in pre-colonial society in Uganda, which was noted by well-documented accounts at the time. However, British Empire colonial laws around ‘unnatural offences’ were maintained after independence through being enshrined in the Penal Code Act (1950), which has made the situation for many SOGI Ugandan’s particularly difficult (Epprecht, 2013).
Before the Penal Code Amendment (2000), only men who have sex with men were prosecuted under the original law, but this was amended to include ‘any persons.’ The once common acceptance of SOGI lives in Uganda is different in modern Uganda, and this SOGI history has been edited from historical textbooks and SOGI people are used for political gain to blame for wider social problems or for ideological gain. The SOGI history of Uganda is widely disputed by many Ugandan leaders, religious leaders and people, who push the narrative that to be SOGI is ‘un-African’ and ‘Western’, despite evidence to the contrary and despite Uganda having a rich SOGI history (Epprecht, 2013, Nichol, et al, 2018).
Social attitudes toward SOGI people are also particularly harsh. This was documented in a global survey from the Pew Research Centre (2013), which found that 96% of Ugandan’s believed that ‘homosexuality’ should be rejected by society, being one of the most homophobic countries documented in the survey (the fifth highest rate of non-acceptance of all countries surveyed). SOGI persons are subject to societal harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and threats to their well-being and are frequently denied access to health services. Several newspapers have identified names and addresses of SOGI people which has put their lives at risk (BBC, 2006, 2010). On January 26th 2011, SOGI activist David Kato, who had successfully sued a local tabloid for the 2010 publication of his picture under the headline ‘Hang Them,’ was bludgeoned to death at his home outside Kampala. PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI) in 2015. Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society's view on homosexuality, their experiences of being treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Tellingly, Uganda was ranked last with a GHI score of 20 (PlanetRomeo, 2015).
SOGI people face unique experiences compared to majority heterosexual populations in Uganda. Both male and female homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and an attempt to pass the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act (2014), originally cited the death penalty for SOGI people, which was later reduced to a prison sentence of life imprisonment for ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ A person who conducts a same-sex marriage will be imprisoned for life (same-sex marriages are expressly prohibited by law). The legal situation is tough in Uganda for SOGI people and this is becoming a rising issue in the nation which may see future tougher amendments to the Act, which have recently been announced in October 2019 with attempts to bring back the death penalty.
What are we doing at ReportOUT?
Our 'Out in Uganda Project' will:
- Phase one of our research has started by scoping all of the available literature and developing a nationwide survey, which will go out to SOGI people all over Uganda.
- Once this is completed, ReportOUT will be training up local people on using research methods and data analysis,
This will all become a huge nation state report, which we hope can outline some of the key problems and the global need to support Ugandan SOGI organisations, offer suggestions for multi-agency working and open up opportunities for Ugandan SOGI groups to access funding,
Life in Uganda is extremely difficult for SOGI people and human rights abuses are commonplace. The video from 2013, whilst older, still remains relevant today:
How can you help?
We need your support. You can help us to achieve this by doing any of the following:
- Donating to ReportOUT and to our partner organisations - please see the links to them at the beginning of this blog.