By Alfred Waske
IN an unprecedented show of boldness, the homosexual community in Uganda yesterday came out and addressed their maiden press conference, complaining about discrimination and demanding acceptance by the public.
â€œPlease, let us live in peace. Stop persecuting us. God created us this way. We are children of God as well,â€ shouted more than 30 homosexuals led by Victor Juliet Mukasa, leader of the Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), their umbrella organization comprising Freedom & Roam, Spectrum Uganda, Integrity Uganda and Icebreakers Uganda. Some of them wore masks.
The Uganda Penal Code Act criminalizes homosexuality. The law regards homosexuality as an unnatural offence punishable with life imprisonment.
The Penal Code says any person who has carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature commits the offence.
Mukasa said their community comprises of lesbians (woman and woman), gays (men and men), bisexual (men and women), transgender (born with female genitals but with a male mentality) and intersex (born with more than one sexual organ or hermaphrodite). She abbreviated their community as LGBTI.
Dressed in a dark male blazer, Mukasa said in a female voice: â€œI am a transgender. I was born with a vagina but my mentality is different.â€
She revealed that in order to hide her identity, she had been strapping her breasts with belts, bandages and other materials.
â€œIn a landmark case, we, Ugandan LGBTI people assembled at the High Court of Uganda two months ago to reinforce our right to privacy, dignity and property. There were no charges against us. We had done nothing wrong,â€ Mukasa said.
She said her group went to court because the Police raided her home in 2005, arrested her guest, stole many documents, dragged them to Kireka Police post and forced her guest to strip naked in order to prove that she was a woman.
â€œWe were treated in a degrading and inhumane way. Many of us have suffered similar injustice. We are here today to proclaim that these human rights violations are completely unacceptable,â€ she protested as the roomful yelled, â€œLeave us to live in peace.â€
They said they were concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS because medical institutions discriminate against them. They urged the Police and LDUs to stop harassing their members.
â€œDonâ€™t lay a hand on us, we are the homosexual chidren of God. God created us this way and all we ask is let us live in peace.â€
Another transgender, Brenda Kizza, with a male face and female body shocked the media when she said the Police has tortured her so much that at some point they kicked her teeth out. She opened her mouth to show her fake teeth.
â€œI had to buy these because I lost the originals, courtesy of policemen,â€ she testified in Luganda. Several others also testified.
Someone in the audience identified himself as Dr. Paul Ssemugooma and estimated that there are at least 500,000 homosexuals in Uganda. There were human rights defenders like Jessica Nkuuhe, Sarah Mukasa, Beatrice Were and others.