News / Africa

2nd Annual Gay Pride Parade Held in Uganda

Revelers are seen at Uganda's second annual gay pride parade in Entebbe, August 3, 2013. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)
Revelers are seen at Uganda's second annual gay pride parade in Entebbe, August 3, 2013. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)
On Saturday, August 3, Uganda’s homosexual community stepped out of the shadows in red wigs and glittering stilettos.

The country’s second gay pride parade, held on a sandy beach in Entebbe, drew over a hundred people eager to tell the world that they are out, they are proud and they are not afraid to show it.

Growing confidence

Last year’s parade, the first ever in Uganda, was broken up by police, and several people were arrested. But the fact that they were able to pull it off at all has given the community newfound confidence, says activist Kelly Mukwano.

“That success gave us confidence that we can do it," Mukwano said. "We are getting more confident as time goes by.”
Beyondy, who performed on August. 3, 2013, says she was beaten up by police at last year's gay pride parade. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)Beyondy, who performed on August. 3, 2013, says she was beaten up by police at last year's gay pride parade. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)
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.”

Grim history

Uganda has a grim track record when it comes to gay rights.

The country grabbed headlines in 2009 with the introduction of a draconian anti-homosexuality bill which proposed the death penalty for acts of so-called “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill has yet to be debated by parliament.

The proposed legislation whipped up homophobia in Uganda and drove some homosexuals out of the country. But, according to Sandra Ntebi, who handles security for the gay and lesbian community, the number of activists has also been growing.

“We have more energy than three or five years back when the bill had just been tabled and everyone was running," Ntebi said. "We were not feeling that we really deserved to stay in our own country. But most of us have decided to come back on the ground and we fight for our rights from home.”

There is no question that being homosexual in Uganda is still difficult. Police regularly break up events held by the gay and lesbian community, and homosexuals are often disowned by their families and shunned by friends. Violence and intimidation occur on a regular basis.

Improving conditions

But Mukwano insists that the situation in Uganda has been exaggerated in the international media, and that there are plenty of countries that are worse.

“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.”

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Comment Sorting
by: billy wingartenson from: Baltimore md
August 04, 2013 11:15 PM
BTW tthis is amazing given that there is much Islamic influence in Uganda and other African nations. Back some years ago a plane of Israelis was hijacked and taken to Uganda by the bums of the Islamic Edi Amin Ultimately all were rescued with a daring landing of Israeli troops in a gliding in C130 transport All the hijackers were killed, the only loss was the sun of Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli LT

BTW ,the hatred of gays has been driven even worse in Uganda by a scott lively, and American extremist (non cath) christian who wrote a book saying the Nazis were gay The Nazis murdered all the "effeminate" as they saw the gays, that they could find. About 50,000
In Response

by: dr JImmy from: holland
August 06, 2013 6:24 AM
First my congratulations to the gay people in Uganda , it is good step towards birght and save future for the gay and lesbians in your country. I am myself somalian and hope to see more freedom for the gay population, specialy in somaliland which claims to be democratic country. We somaliland gays deserve the same right as any other group. let is marge in the Streets of hargaisa with the gay flag and demand our place in the society. they should stop hate and violance against the gay people in somaliland. viva all gay all over the world and freedom for African gays. peace and love
In Response

by: Dilman from: Kampala
August 05, 2013 11:41 AM
You are utterly mis-informed. Uganda is not Islamist. Idi Amin was a muslim, but not an Islamist. Besides, Isreal itself was behind that hijacking!
In Response

by: Bbb from: Toronto
August 05, 2013 10:49 AM
I agree with everything, except that Uganda has Islamic influence. Christians maKe up about 84% of Uganda's population and Muslim representing 12 % who practice a moderate version of Islam. Evangelical from the states has more stake on this than any other external influence

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