Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Heartbreaking Story From One of the World's Most Transphobic Places | Jonny von Wallström

When President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, he changed the lives of all LGBTI people in Uganda, one of the most dangerous countries for gay and transgender people. For my friend Cleopatra Kambugu, February 24, 2014, was one of the worst days of her life. In the same week, Cleo found her name on the front page of The Red Pepper, a Ugandan newspaper. She lost her job and was abandoned by most of her family. But she wasn't the only one.

With homosexuality illegal in the country, everyone was forced to conform to the norm or hide from the authority and even from their family and friends. Gay and transgender people lost their jobs and were forced to live in isolation to avoid persecution or violence, to live alone away from the people they care about. The Anti-Homosexuality Act encompasses prohibitions for all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions that are not considered normal. So, while Cleo is not gay, she is still subject to the harsh, inhuman stipulations of the law.

Nevertheless, the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act changed things for Cleo drastically. Four days after the act was signed by the Ugandan President, she found herself on the cover of The Red Pepper. Realizing that the crackdown on them had begun. Fearing for their lives, they went underground.

During this time, I received a heartbreaking letter from Cleo, telling me about the harsh effect the law had on their lives. They had been forced to live behind closed doors for over a month. With Cleo's mother coming in the nights with food and supply. Cleo was trying to get out of the country to Sweden, USA or Norway. Anything would help.

But at this time, countries like Sweden, who is known for supporting LGBTI activists in Uganda. Turned their backs to the activists. Many were refused to attend international conferences because of the fear of them overstaying their visas and that they would use it as an excuse not to go back home.

A Heartbreaking Story From One of the World's Most Transphobic Places | Jonny von Wallström

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