ENTEBBE, UGANDA - Uganda's fourth annual gay pride parade took place Saturday in Entebbe, a risky venture in a country with a history of prosecuting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans, but many now say they are finding their voice.
Saturday's celebrations on the shores of Lake Victoris in Entebbe were a lighthearted affair. Prominent members of the gay community were there and assured other participants police would offer protection.
In another sign that Uganda's LGBT members are taking steps out into the open, events were also held in Kampala this year, including choosing a Mr. and Ms. Pride.
The Kuchu Times, an African LGBT media house that originated in Uganda and has members throughout East Africa, covered events.
Ambrose Barigye, media field officer for the organization, said, “Most of the times the Ugandan media has reported negatively about the Ugandan LGBT movement. ... We so had a need to reclaim the media and tell our own stories. ... So we call it Reclaiming the Media Project. ... We tell the world this is who we are, these are the real stories. Nobody coming and telling the wrong story about us.”
Uganda has harsh anti-homosexuality laws, and last year passed a law imposing life sentences for homosexual acts. The country's highest court struck down the law, but not before it generated international criticism from human rights organizations.
Many who attended Saturday's event say they are determined to change Uganda from the inside out.
They say that although some in the international community have disparaged Uganda, they are proud of their heritage and are certain they can build acceptance.
Phiona Adebayo, a transgender man who won the title of Mr. Pride this year, said he believes, in time, things will change.
“I came out to show the world, to show Uganda that we are here to stay and we shall stay. Because we are born Ugandans and we should not go for asylum in other countries. This is our home country," Adebayo said.
Participants say each each year the Pride Parade has become bolder, taking longer routes and growing louder. They hope that one day it will no longer take place in Entebbe's Botanical Gardens but on the streets of Kampala.