The battle against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB), and its aftermath in Uganda today, exemplify a struggle taking place in a number of countries. In addition to the existing criminalization of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, the AHB brought a new emphasis on explicitly defining “homosexuals”, including lesbians, as a menace to society. A new offence of “promotion of homosexuality” was created, which could be used against any person or organization that supports LGBTI rights.  

The campaign to stop the AHB was led by the grassroots organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. The campaign galvanized substantial international support. The bill finally became law in March 2014. In August 2014 it was struck down by a constitutional court ruling. Plans for a new and even harsher law have been leaked, but nothing has been introduced to date (summer 2015).

Envisioning’s research looks at the experiences of LGBTI people in Uganda and their history of building a movement, while also examining the complex intersections behind the current “moral panic” and the assault on civil liberties. This is the subject of the documentary And Still We Rise, by Envisioning and SMUG.

Nikki Mawanda Salongo:

Keywords: Transgender Support Initiative Uganda (TSIU); Trans; Transgender; Intersex; Human Rights Defender; LGBTI Rights; HIV/AIDS; Activism; Violence; Discrimination; Employment; Education; Relationships.

Nikki: “Trans people face a spectrum of issues that are majorly misunderstood even within the LGBTI community, and the wider community of Uganda as a whole.”

Synopsis: Nikki Mawanda Salongo is the founder and Executive Director of Transgender Support Initiative Uganda (TSIU), an organization that fights for the rights and liberation of trans persons in Uganda. He identifies as a trans man and human rights defender specializing in trans and intersex rights - and a father. Nikki speaks about violence on a personal level and on a broader level including within the LGBTI community itself. Kicked out of home at 13 years of age, Nikki speaks about how trans people are often denied education and employment opportunities.  He speaks about oppression and violence based on difference, and prejudicial misconceptions such as when LGBTI people are labeled as carriers of HIV/AIDS. Nikki also talks about the challenges and hardships for a trans person in finding a partner to love him for who he is.

Frank Mugisha:

Keywords: Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG); Gay; Violence; Law; Police; LGBTI; Discrimination; Religion; Activism; Education; Social Movement Organizing; Promotion of Homosexuality; Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Frank: “SMUG, as small as we are, we are fighting against this very big Christian movement in Uganda. It has been very difficult to undo the damage, because they say we are recruiting young children and then promoting homosexuality.”

Synopsis: Dr. Frank Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of LGBTI organizations in Uganda. A leader in international LGBTI human rights work, Frank has received many awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Frank recounts personal experiences and describes the many levels of discrimination facing LGBTI people. He speaks about how political and religious leaders use homosexuality as a scapegoat, distracting attention from other pressing social needs. He highlights SMUG’s groundbreaking legal suit against American evangelical Scott Lively, for conspiracy in drafting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, as well as ‘his agenda to wipe out the gay movement.’

Stosh Jovan Mugisha:

Keywords: Kuchus Living with HIV/AIDS (KULHAS); LGBTI; Trans; Activism; Social Movement Organizing; HIV/AIDS; Resilience; Gender non-conforming; Police; Employment; Stigma; Media; Discrimination; Rape.

Stosh: “Sometimes I think I’m ‘triple-stigmatized’.”

Synopsis: Stosh Jovan Mugisha is a trans man and the founder and executive director of Kuchus Living with HIV/AIDS (KULHAS) in Uganda. He was forced to flee Uganda following several attacks and threats on his life. Stosh speaks about stigma, sexual violence and rape in relation to being HIV positive, a trans man and gender non-conforming - what he refers to as a sense of ‘triple-stigmatization’. He speaks of his personal history - first identifying as a lesbian, later feeling that as a female, he was caught in the wrong body - while at the same time facing attacks and sexual violence for not conforming to normative gender roles,. Despite having faced threats to his life, Stosh remains hopeful for the future, offering insightful reflection on acceptance both globally and within LGBTI communities.   

Geoffrey Ogwaro: 

Keywords: Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law; Social Movement Organizing; LGBTI; Human Rights; Law; Political Context; Discrimination; Same-Sex Relationships; Religion; Resilience.

Geoffrey: “We try to explain that LGBTI are human beings with rights and these rights are enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.”

Synopsis: Geoffrey Ogwaro is the co-coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. He speaks to the essential need for understanding of LGBTI rights as human rights and therefore as something that is not separate from human rights advocacy. Geoffrey speaks about anti-LGBTI sentiments in society, and highlights the struggle of the LGBTI community in Uganda against such negative perception.  He speaks about how change is being stifled by inactivity and low levels of political will. This being said, Geoffrey refuses to be pessimistic.

Anonymous: Uganda 2014: 

Keywords: LGBTI; Human Rights; Discrimination; Law; Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Quote: “It was a nice moment, until our freedoms started being crushed, step by step. [It was] a very huge plan by people who took away our human rights. They really planned this.”

Synopsis: Anonymous reflects on the period between 2004 and 2009 when they became involved in LGBTI organizing, during the time of a campaign called “Let Us Live in Peace”. They describe this time as a wonderful period, a time of unity. Then, they go on to talk about the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda in February 2014 and the resulting loss of human rights and freedoms and how it impacted LGBTI people and organizations.