A Ugandan organization that represents the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals says they are deprived of their rights by the country's law that makes homosexuality illegal. The comments follow an anti-gay protest in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Tuesday, which drew more than 100 demonstrators. Malcolm Webb reports for VOA from Nairobi.
The rights organization, Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG) says gays, lesbians and bisexuals in Uganda have suffered abuse, neglect and violence, and they want to be left alone.
SMUG representative Laurence Misedah said these people are not doing anything wrong.
"We are not harming anyone," he said. "We are requesting them to let us live in peace. We are just trying to let them know that what we are requiring is understanding, and for them to give us space so that we talk to them, because most of them are talking out of ignorance."
Misedah was speaking in reaction to an anti-gay demonstration Tuesday by a coalition of Christian, Muslim and Bahai groups. The protesters carried placards with anti-gay messages and demanding the deportation of an American journalist, Katherine Roubos, who is an intern with the Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala. She had been assigned to cover gay issues in Uganda as part of her internship.
Last week, she covered a news conference held by SMUG, the first of its kind in the country, where the group demanded recognition. The conference and the subsequent news coverage triggered the reaction from the religious groups, who say they are fighting against a campaign to promote homosexuality in the country, which they say is brought in by outsiders.
But Misedah says homosexuality in Uganda does not come from abroad.
"We have people from deep within the villages who do not even speak English and they haven't had any exposure to [or] with any white person or any Western ideas," he added. "They should accept us just the way our forefathers did because same sex relationships were in the African tradition."
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The anti-gay protesters say there is unfair international pressure on the government to review the law in anticipation of their hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November.
But Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo said last week that gays, lesbians and bisexuals will not be given equal rights, and homosexuality will not be legalized.