THE PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS IN UGANDA
Uganda has criminalized homosexuality for over a century. Yet today, one of the most punitive laws against homosexuality ever conceived threatens the lives of the country’s gays and lesbians. Ugandan legislator David Bahati, a member of the United States-based fundamentalist Christian group The Family, introduced the law in parliament. If passed, it could lead to the execution of people who have gay sex more than once, the imprisonment of heterosexual people who fail to turn gays and lesbians over to the police, and the abolition of all organizations that support LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.
The possible passage of the law hangs like a Damocles sword over the LGBT community in Uganda. Each day that no decisive action is taken to throw out the bill, it encourages homophobia to spread and allow political and religious leaders to scapegoat the LGBT community for society’s ills and their own personal gain. Hundreds of men and women have already been “outed” by tabloid newspaper in Uganda. Their names, photos and adresses are regularly published under headlines such as “More homos faces exposed” and “Men of Shame”.
I started this project to tell the stories of LGBT human rights defenders living and working in this environment. There is, for example, Auf Usaam Mukwaya, a 26-year-old gay man who has been involved in gay rights activism for years. Consequent to that, he has been arrested and jailed twice, and harassed and threatened by neighbors after being outed in a local paper and identified by name and picture on television. Part of my work document his story of enduring prejudice, discrimination and loss. A story shared by most of the LGBT community. This draconian new law, if passed, is tantamount to a death sentence for all of them.
By contrasting images of this community with photographs depicting the increasingly hostile environment in which they live, I aim to honor the bravery of those who have decided to fight against the bill while others look away. If the bill passes, persecution against the LGBT community will increase. Yet this bill has also strengthened the Ugandan LGBT community’s solidarity and its struggle to continue fighting for equality.
This story is not only about being LGBT in Uganda, but also about the common struggle for equality for the LGBT community globally.