Just more than a year after Uganda repealed harmful laws that openly persecuted LGBTQ people, activists are kicking off the country's fourth annual pride week. But just because the Anti-Homosexuality Act is gone doesn't mean that pride can be a safe, open event in the country.
“The law is only part of it,” activist and pride organizer Richard Lusimbo told the Guardian. “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the people on your side. The biggest challenge is to get that neighbour, that shop keeper, that person working in the salon to support you.”
The discriminatory laws were struck down by the Ugandan Supreme Court in August last year—another bill was introduced in parliament just four months later, this one targeting the "promotion" of homosexuality. And then in March of this year, the original sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, politician David Bahati, said he would re-introduce the act. But LGBTQ and civil rights activists in Uganda are not easily fazed.
The organizers–volunteers from various LGBTQ advocacy groups–are going ahead with the week-long celebration, though they're taking some pointed security measures, like not publicly announcing the location of the events, which are all invite-only.
But despite the oppressive environment, organizer Lusimbo wants to keep the event upbeat, not angry. "It’s not a protest but a celebration,"he told the Guardian.
An African media outlet covering LGBTQ stories is also live streaming many of the events, starting with an opening ceremony today. This is the fourth year that activists in the country have organized pride events. The Kuchu Times has a round up of how the atmosphere has changed over those years–from the threats of arrest and violence in 2013 to last year's parade where masks "stood for the millions of Ugandans who remain in the closet for fear of being persecuted."
This is a photo of the first pride parade in 2012:
Human Rights Watch still considers Uganda hostile to its LGBTQ people:
Police continue to obstruct opposition public meetings, relying on broad police powers while impunity for abuses by the security forces, particularly during protests, remains a serious problem. Although the Anti-Homosexuality Act was overturned by a constitutional challenge in 2014, government officials continue to voice support for its discriminatory provisions.