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'Uganda Pride' Offers Welcome Break From Life in the Closet

  • Serginho Roosblad

In a secret location in Uganda Saturday, several hundred people walked in a gay pride march.

While homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, Saturday's event was a welcome break from "life in the closet" for the country's many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The fourth annual Uganda Pride was also hailed as a small victory, coming a year after a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which would have punished homosexual acts with long prison terms, was struck down.

'We are family'

For many participants, Uganda Pride, with the theme "We are family," is one of the few events where they say they can be themselves.

“Pride, to me, it means freedom. I can come out this day and say that I’m proud of who I am. I’m gay and I’m proud of it," said Elvis Ayesiga, a Pride participant.

The colorful parade, which is the pinnacle of Pride week, attracted at least 300 people and was held on the shores of Lake Victoria.

In order to ensure safety and privacy of those in the LGBT community, organizers kept secret the exact location of the parade until Saturday.

People who identified themselves as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community parade in Entebbe, southwest of Uganda's capital, Kampala, Aug. 8, 2015.

People who identified themselves as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community parade in Entebbe, southwest of Uganda's capital, Kampala, Aug. 8, 2015.

Shawn Mugisha, in charge of security and safety for Pride, credited police and media for cooperating with organizers, which could be seen as a small positive change toward acceptance.

“We worked closely with the police. That’s why the media has passes so we know who’s doing what. So we don’t have the aftermath on Monday, things going haywire for our community members," Mugisha said.

Hardships

Uganda’s gay community has faced many hardships in recent years.

In 2014 the law that imposed life in prison for so-called "unnatural sexual acts" was signed, creating an international outcry. In the end, the law was repealed six months after it was implemented. But Uganda’s society remains very conservative when it comes to same-sex relationships.

LGBT activist Jacqueline Kasha said, “It doesn’t mean that because the law was repelled or nullified that everything is OK. We still have the penal code to deal with. So there’s a lot of work in the health ahead of us, in housing, in employment, even just [in] families."

Mahad, who identifies as a transgender woman, smiles moments after being crowned as the winner of the Miss Pride beauty contest at an undisclosed venue in Kampala, Uganda, Aug. 7, 2015.

Mahad, who identifies as a transgender woman, smiles moments after being crowned as the winner of the Miss Pride beauty contest at an undisclosed venue in Kampala, Uganda, Aug. 7, 2015.

In order to continue to fight for the rights of gay people, a number of initiatives have been taken to sensitize the people of Uganda.

“That’s why we published the first LGBT magazine, to bring a different narrative to the mainstream media," said Kasha added.

Apart from the parade, Pride held five days of events, including a transgender awareness day, fashion shows, documentary screenings, as well as events that promote better health awareness. The event ended Sunday evening.

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