Pride month is celebrated across the world every June to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in the USA, a watershed event for LGBTQI+ rights. This year, because of Covid-19 pride celebrations have been cancelled in most parts of the world and/or have gone online. We have gathered five stories of young LGBTQI+ activists from across the globe to showcase their resilience in the face of uncertainty and how they are celebrating pride during the pandemic.
This interview is part of our Pride 2020 series spotlighting LGBTQI+ Activists around the world. In this instalment, Aapurv and Jenny spoke with Amanda from Uganda.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your work?
My work is to identify and act upon opportunities to draw the community’s attention to LGBT people, as human beings, and to direct policymakers to Transgender Equality in Uganda. We are a community based organisation that has empowered resilience and struggles against discrimination using the power of ‘advocacy’. We create awareness in order to influence decision-making processes. This includes organising community mobilisation and sensitisation at grassroots levels through trainings with various stakeholders such as police, local leaders and health service providers, to positively influence public attitudes. We also lobby for constitutional, legal and policy reforms such as bringing about the ratification of international instruments on human rights.
What are the biggest concerns of LGBTQI+ communities in Uganda?
LGBTQI+ individuals are more likely to live in poverty since they are very prone to unemployment and job termination. They also commonly face harassment, mistreatment and discrimination at work places. They are more likely to face suspensions and expulsions from school, coupled with school homophobic bullying, this leads to increased school drop out rates.
LGBTQI+ persons are more likely to face family neglect and homelessness. They are more likely to be extorted, blackmailed or unlawfully arrested on charges of impersonation and other vagrancy laws under the penal code. They are more likely to attempt suicide because they are prone to mental health problems mainly due to depression and resultant addictions.
LGBTIQ persons are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and infection from other STIs due to the absence of tailored healthcare services and education. And more likely to face sexual abuse as patriarchal cultural norms perceive them as culturally demeaning. Sexual violence and “corrective rape” continues to be practiced against LGBTQI+ individuals.
How has Covid19 impacted the LGBTQI+ communities in Uganda?
For many LGBTIQ community members and organisations, the COVID19 lockdown has boosted the urgency to navigate our work and advocacy efforts online. This has in turn increased the risks of violations against us in regards to our digital safety and security. In addition to the harsh laws and policies that have always surrounded our work, this epidemic has increased the difficulties of accessing legal, communal and social support from LGBTIQ organisations since many are physically closed. This is bringing about an increase in cases of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Some police officials in different communities are also taking advantage of the situation to harass and abuse; arresting trans women and forcefully demanding sexual or financial bribes.
How can International NGOs support LGBTQI+ communities in these times?
NGOs and donors can support innovative transgender human rights advocacy, defence mechanisms and strategies.They can also help initiatives aimed at building the capacity of transgender organisations in human rights advocacy in relation to covid. They can support innovations in transgender health advocacy and health care services aimed at reaching out to the most excluded from services especially those in rural settings. And as always they should support education and economic empowerment programs targeting transgender women to improve their standards of living. This targeted intervention is more important than ever as trans individuals face the economic hardship of COVID19 lockdown.
Most activities have had to be moved online due to the Covid19 outbreak. We have webinars interrogating what pride means, how it is to be LGBTQI+ in Uganda, and live watch parties for the LGBTIQ youth that love to celebrate their identity. We will also be engaging in campaigns and twitter conversations to create more awareness about pride month.
Aapurv Jain leads business development for Restless Development’s Uganda Hub. He is also an advisory member of the UN Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group in India. Most of his work has been in the area of gender, sexuality, human rights and health.