Ugandans Hold Second Pride Celebration
August 5th, 2013
Advance notice was limited somewhat, mostly to unsharable private Facebook pages, but last Saturday, over a hundred people gathered at a beach on Lake Victoria in Entebbe for the nations second gay pride parade and celebration. Last year’s celebration was broken up by police as it was winding down, but as Voice of America reports, the fact that they were able to get together at all gave the community “newfound confidence“:
“That success gave us confidence that we can do it,” [LGBT advocate Kelly] Mukwano said. “We are getting more confident as time goes by.”
Saturday’s march was sheltered in the leafy recesses of a botanical garden about 20 miles from Kampala. But this year, police were informed in advance and the authorities did not intervene. Some revelers felt it was only a matter of time before they are able to march through the streets of the capital.
“Guys, it’s baby steps,” said one marcher. “Today, we are here, miles away from Kampala. Baby steps. Soon we shall be on Kampala Road.”
The fact that police were notified ahead of time and decided not to intervene is especially remarkable. Mukwano told Voice of America that it is one of many signs that the situation in Uganda is improving:
“People are dying in Ethiopia,” Mukwano said. “People are dying elsewhere in the world. In Jamaica, people are being beaten all the time because they are gay. So I think that was over-exaggerating that Uganda is the worst place to be gay.”
One brightly dressed transsexual, who goes by the name Beyondy, says that Saturday’s event just made her feel free.
“Last year, I was one of the people who were beaten up by the police,” Beyondy said. “So today I’m happy that we are free. No one is staring and stopping our marching.”
On the political front, threats from Parliament to pass the Anti-Homosexualty Bill have largely disappeared. The last time its passage appeared imminent, Parliament was in the middle of debating a controversial clause in the proposed Petroleum Bill which granted a presidential appointee exclusive powers to negotiate, approve, and/or revoke lucrative oil exploration and drilling contracts with virtually no oversight from Parliament. That measure squeeked through in a last-minute maneuver in December 2012, which effectively legalized the wholesale theft of the country’s untapped oil wealth. Hovering in the wings, to serve either as a distraction or as a politically necessary unifying vote was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which had risen to the top of Parliament’s Order Papers under “Business to Follow.” The only calculus in the decision would be whether the cost of losing millions of Dollars and Euros in foreign aid would outweigh the political necessity of passing the bill.
But the political establishment apparently decided that the costly vote wasn’t needed. In the six months since following passage of the contentious Petroleum Bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill slowly drifted down from its number one spot under “Business to Follow,” only to disappear altogether at the end of June, 2013. It still remains a part of official business however, and can be brought back at any time. You can see our clause-by-clause examination of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill beginning here.
BTB reader MatNYC tips us to this report from NPR which covers the Pride celebration and provides background. It also notes the improved climate for LGBT people. The program includes LGBT-advocate who goes by the nickname of “Long John.” He has been featured in several documentaries about the LGBT community in Uganda, including Call Me Kuchu and Current TV’s Missionaries of Hate. He is now running a tour company offering safaris for gay tourists, with the full knowledge of Uganda’s tourism board.