The existence of queer identities has been criminalised
BY KRYSTA MCKENZIE, IMAGE BY DREAMSTIME
Recently, Uganda has passed a bill that seeks to criminalise identifying as LGBTQIA or openly advocating for LGBTQIA rights. Individuals convicted for these “crimes” risk being imprisoned for up to 20 years. Understandably, this has led to outrage from LGBTQIA persons living in Uganda, as well as queer people and allies around the world. It is vital that we focus on the voices of people that will suffer if President Museveni signs off on this legislation.
As Lady Phyll wrote for Attitude Magazine: “Lives are at stake, and there is a key challenge to relocate human rights defenders that have been personally targeted to safe locations and continuing to support the work of their organisations in order to try to ensure all momentum is not lost.” This is not a case of the western world progressing while Uganda is stuck in the past, rather it “can be traced back to their roots as a colonial export that has left a deep scar and ongoing painful legacy on the country.”
Frank Mugisha, an openly gay activist in Uganda, spoke to Reuters voicing his concern about the legislation leading to “mass arrests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons and mob violence toward LGBTQ communities.” The passing of this bill brings light to the very real threat looming over LGBTQIA citizens of Uganda, so it is unconscionable that a speaker of the parliament declared, “Whatever we are doing, we are doing it for the people of Uganda.”
However, some mothers of LGBTQIA people in Uganda have seen this as the farce it is, and have written an open letter to President Museveni, firmly voicing their stance: “We strongly reiterate that one cannot seek to protect children from an invisible enemy by launching and sustaining a dangerous anti-gay messaging and campaign that is inadvertently putting other people’s children at risk. This is offensive at so many levels because it strips Ugandan citizens that identify as LGBTQ+ of their constitutional rights.”
These women continued to say, “All our children, no matter their age, sexual orientation and gender identity, need and deserve our love. This is the very basis of what a family unit is about. Home is more than just structures, it’s a safe haven and refuge of love, learning, and belonging.”
It is my hope that the LGBTQIA community in Uganda read the message of these mothers and know that regardless of whether the President signs the bill, there are people looking out for them, and the fight will not stop here.
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