Uganda holds its first gay pride following overturn of anti-gay law

imageUganda has hosted its first gay pride rally since a draconian anti-homosexuality law was overturned by the courts.

Sandra Ntebi, organiser of the rally held on Saturday in Entebbe, 35km from the capital Kampala, said police had granted permission for the invitation-only “Uganda Pride” event.

“This event is to bring us together. Everyone was in hiding before because of the anti-homosexuality law,” she said. “It is a happy day for all of us, getting together.”

The overturned law, condemned as “abominable” by rights groups but popular among many Ugandans, called for proven homosexuals to be jailed for life.

The constitutional court rejected the law on a technicality on 1 August, six months after it took effect. The government swiftly filed an appeal, while MPs have signed a petition for a new vote on the bill.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, punishable by a jail sentence. However, it is no longer illegal to promote homosexuality and Ugandans are no longer obliged to denounce gays to the authorities.

Amid music, dancing and laughter, activists gathered in a park on the shores of Lake Victoria, close to the country’s presidential palace. “Some Ugandans are gay. Get over it,” read one sticker a man had pasted onto his face.

Ugandan deputy attorney-general Fred Ruhinda said that government lawyers had lodged an appeal against the ruling at the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court. “We are unsatisfied with the court ruling,” he said. “The law was not intended to victimise gay people, it was for the common good.”

In their surprise ruling last week, judges said it had been passed without the necessary quorum of MPs in parliament.

Rights groups said the law triggered a sharp increase in arrests and assaults on members of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Homophobia is rampant in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is increasingly popular. Gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence, but activists celebrated openly on Saturday.

“Since I discovered I was gay, I feared coming out, but now I have the courage after the law was thrown out,” said Alex Musoke, one of more than 100 people at the event.

One pair of activists waved a rainbow flag with a slogan appealing for people to “join hands” to end the “genocide” of homosexuals. There were few police in attendance and no protestors.

Critics said President Yoweri Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election set for 2016, which would be his 30th year in power. However, it lost him friends abroad, with several international donors freezing or redirecting millions of dollars of government aid, saying the country had violated human rights and democratic principles.

US secretary of state John Kerry likened the law to anti-semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.

Analysts suggest that Museveni secretly encouraged last week’s court ruling as it provided a way to avoid the appearance of caving in to foreign pressure.

Gay rights activists say the battle is not over. MPs have signed a petition calling for a new vote on the bill and to bypass parliamentary rules that require it be formally reintroduced from scratch – a process that could take years.

Wait a minute… ‘The law was not intended to victimise gay people, it was for the common good.’ I’m sorry, I don’t understand those words of the Ugandan deputy attorney-general Fred Ruhinda. Can someone please help me make sense out of that remark?

15 thoughts on “Uganda holds its first gay pride following overturn of anti-gay law

  1. @Pinky, that last paragraph; me and u both *confused face* …another thing that confuses me is dat homosexuality is still illegal and punishable by a jail sentence, but “promoting” homosexuality(whatever that means) is now legal, and ugandans are no longer obliged to denounce gays to the authorities…I’m sorry but this doesn’t make any type of sense to me at all! So is being gay allowed or nah?

    • As in eh. The entire technicalities confuse me.
      And not to rain on the Ugandan gays’ colourful parade, but isn’t the jubilation a tad premature? Unless I don’t understand what they understand about their country’s gay laws

    • “Being gay” in Uganda is not punished by the law. But all types of gay sex CAN be punished by the law. (A silly distinction, if you ask me ). That’s what they mean.

      • You mean as silly as the distinction GEJ and his band of homophobic lawmakers tried to make in our anti gay bill? Something about homosexuality tends to make these incapable of thinking straight. No pun intended.

  2. I’m probably goin to get thumbed down for this, but I’m sorry,they can miss me with any type of gay rally or carnival or festival. I just don’t think it’s necessary to hold sexuality rallies (heterosexuals don’t do it). I just can’t get with that kinda publicity,I’m sorry. I know some of y’all might say such public…”demonstrations”-if u will – are necessary for our voice and presence and existence to be visible and for acceptance and tolerance to be promoted, but ask yourself, if such a rally came up in Nigeria,perhaps on ur street in, say,festac or ikeja or Wuse or Garki or Independence Layout or…wherever, would u put on a rainbow-coloured shirt and raise a huge placard and join that crowd? Nigeria aint ready, and frankly,neither am I.

  3. 1st of all I’d like to prostrate in greeting to all the brothers and all the -in a matter of speaking- sistuhs in the place, ________O_. 2ndly, this is my 1st comment and I really dunno what to say, but with regard to what @chestnut said, I feel it was pretty immature of them. I’ve likened it to premature-ejaculation… Its just too early.

  4. I agree with u Chestnut, what’s the point? The world will never love homosexuals, we disgust them, let’s just put our acts together and enjoy the little acceptance we receive instead of going all over putting it on their faces “we are gay, we are proud” after all they don’t go around singing ‘we are straight, we r bold’. Live and let live abeg.

  5. Pride rallies aren’t just about the parties and floats, they’re about gay history and trying to achieve equality…. It’s over time that it’s turned to this huge ball where everyone turns up to party.

    As for the technicality of this law, I remember making a comment about it the first day you put it up here. Shouldn’t they have been more concerned about overturning the law jailing homosexuals, than the one jailing the ‘promoters’ of homosexuality. At times, I feel like we take these little victories a bit further than normal, then lose sight of the big picture.

    • What exactly does it mean to “promote homosexuality” though, and why isn’t it a crime in a place where homosexuality is a crime? That’s almost like saying: “murder is a crime,but aiding and abetting a murder is totally NOT a crime”…no kinda sense to me,I tell ya!

  6. while I applaud the boldness of the gay pride revelers, I still have some observations
    1. the kaw was thrown out on a technicality, the court did not make any pronouncement as to the legality (ie whether its a breach of human rights) or otherwise of the law, which means that potentially, the lawmakers could pass the bill anew by simply ensuring that they comply with the laid down procedures.

    2. homosexuality is still illegal in Uganda under the pre-existing anti sodomy laws which Uganda (like other former british colonies eg Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana etc) inherited from her colonial masters.

    3. the striking downt of the law does little ir nothing to change public opinions towads gay persons nor is there even a remote reference of any sort to the widespread police harassment and intimidation/extortion of gay people. one can only assume that for the homophobes, it’s business as usual despite a court ruling which is merely symbolic.

    gay pride started out as a celebration if openness and acceptance to encourage a feeling of pride and dignity despite the oppression and ostracism associated with being gay, to the person who says gays will never be accepted, I reply: you simply havent travelled far and wide enough! in many parts of the civilised world, acceptance of gays is growing in leaps and bounds, the homophobes are a tiny and ever shrinking minority who have been pushed to the brink of thr dustbins of life (both past, present and future) where they rightfully belong! in parts of the world now, people hide their homophobia cos its now seen as absurd to be homophobic just as in Nigeria we are forced to hide our true sexuality.
    Even 50yrs from now, we will probably not see a gay pride march nor even acceptance of gays, for a variety of reasons chief amongst which is the virulent homophobia that grows in leaps and bounds as well as the shocking propensity that Nigerians have for using violence to resolve all issues. But at the same time, for any step to be taken towards acceptance, there must be increased visibility for gays in order to demolish the theories that gays are shadowy and demonic eg imagine the effect if some highly placed members if the society e.g Governors, Doctors, Lawyers, top CEOs, etc were to come out as gay?

  7. I’m honestly shocked at the comments I’ve read here today. They r celebrating prematurely?? You don’t seem to understand half of what they’ve been thru. They r not celebrating because they’ve won the war, they won a battle.. And if they keep up they’ll win many others. We celebrate our football teams winning cups, we celebrate In church, we celebrate birthdays and what not and yet we can’t celebrate a little bit of freedom? The guy with d sticker on his face couldn’t do that some 3weeks ago. Buh now he can. They’re making efforts to change things in their country albeit little by little and we are sitting pretty on our very high pedestal looking for flaws. *sigh*

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