Uganda will change for sexual minorities
“Uganda will change, a lot will change. Once we keep doing the work, once we keep sensitising people, once we keep telling the people that gay people are normal, like anyone else, things will change.”
Frank Mugisha is Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an organisation that fights for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda. In early 2014 Ugandan President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law that threatens anyone alleged to be homosexual with life imprisonment.
The Bill's provisions prevent men who have sex with men and transgender people from accessing essential public health information, such as how to protect themselves from HIV and how to access life-saving treatment and support services that are stigma-free. Other clauses within the act mean that the reputation of anyone working with the gay or lesbian population such as medical doctors working on HIV and AIDS and civil society leaders active in the field of sexual and reproductive health could be severely compromised.
“Once we keep doing the work, once we keep sensitising people, once we keep telling the people that gay people are normal, like anyone else, things will change.”
Since the law was signed, SMUG has faced a heightened risk of disruption, with the threat of police raids and mob attacks on its premises and staff. Anticipating this situation, the Alliance put in place a rapid response system, which brought together our partners in Uganda and key staff in the secretariat to decide what action to take immediately after the Bill was signed.
We have supported SMUG and other groups on the ground to develop a security plan, emergency alert systems and a monitoring framework which enables them to document human rights abuses affecting LGBT people and to show that these have increased since the Bill became law. We also provided extra security funding. Having clear channels of communication with our grassroots partners in Uganda enables us to keep other strategic allies - for example donor governments and the international NGO community - updated with real time information about what is happening on the ground, and helped us to shape their responses.