A minister condemned Uganda‘s LGBTI community for planning to build a safe space in the capital Kampala.
This would be East Africa’s first center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Providing the community with such a space would be a milestone for the African nation.
Gay sex, in fact, is still illegal in Uganda under colonial laws. Therefore, even organizing a Pride march might be dangerous for those involved. In 2016, police officers raided Uganda Pride and held hostage participants.
The minister said: ‘They can’t open a centre of LGBT activity here’
After months of planning and a fundraising campaign, however, authorities have told Rainbow Riots activists their project is illegal.
Simon Lokodo, the country’s minister for ethics and integrity, said opening the community center would be a criminal act. It would violate the law that currently criminalizes homosexuality.
‘They will have to take it somewhere else. They can’t open a centre of LGBT activity here,’ he said.
‘Homosexuality is not allowed and completely unacceptable in Uganda.’
He furthermore added: ‘We don’t and can’t allow it. LGBT activities are already banned and criminalised in this country. So popularising it is only committing a crime.’
‘His condemnation cannot stop us’
Nonetheless, LGBTI activists are continuing their fight and going ahead with their project.
Despite opening the center in Kampala might put their freedom at stake, they are hoping to open the center in 2019.
They have already raised the equivalent of $4,000.
‘I feel saddened by it, but not surprised,’ founding director of Rainbow Riots Petter Wallenberg told GSN.
‘As a gay man who has lived through modern day gay liberation, I have seen homophobia in many shapes and forms before. I have been in dangerous situations in Uganda and other places and it doesn’t deter me from fighting. We tend to forget that these kinds of homophobic attitudes were normal in Europe and the US not long ago. But they changed because we fought back,’ he also said.
Trans activist Alicia Houston also expressed her outrage at the minister’s statement.
‘Our country is facing a lot of serious challenges like corruption and killings, and LGBTI people are doing no harm by only wanting to exist. He should accept that LGBTI people do exist,’ she told GSN.
‘Of course LGBTI people feel so bad because the idea with this centre is to help us develop our talents and skills and give us something to be proud of. His condemnation cannot stop us. This centre is not a criminal act.’