Stop the Hate!

By on May 18, 2020

While growing up, there was a narrative that was taught in schools, homes, churches, and mosques around the country – Ugandans are a friendly lot. In fact, during class lessons, when asked to describe Ugandans, many students would confidently answer ‘Friendly’ and get full marks. The friendliness is talked about so much that it is the last line in the second stanza of our Stanza;

“In peace and friendship we’ll live.”

Many Ugandans often grow into and embrace this narrative, trying our best to be as friendly as we possibly can. As we grow older, however, we tend to become less friendly and in some cases even completely discard this friendliness for more vile and hateful ways of life. 

When you scour the internet, you’ll come across hatred spewed across various platforms in different forms for instance tribalism, religious intolerance, political hatred, colorism, and even homophobia. There are many forms of hatred that Ugandans practice now but the one that probably receives the most intense levels of hatred is homophobia.

Everywhere you look, both online and offline, there are Ugandans who are intolerant and discriminatory to the LGBT community. Their reasons often range from Religious notions to Cultural biases and even personal fears. And even with the knowledge that we can not all as human beings be the same or fancy the same things, there is an animosity that Ugandans take upon when dealing with LGBT related issues. 

Around the world, the LGBT community faces discrimination and subjection to the worst possible conditions known to human beings. In some places, the situation is so dire that it often leads to suicide by members of the community as an escape route from all the torment and torture. One would think that no matter what happens, no human being should be driven to suicide because of the hate and discrimination from society.

On 10 October, somewhere in Belgrade, a group of protesters shouted vile abuse and hurled Molotov cocktails plus stun grenades into a peaceful LGBT gathering, injuring 150 people. On 3 October in New York, 3 men who were believed to belong to the LGBT community were kidnapped, tortured, and abused in the Bronx. In South Africa, the LGBT community struggles every other day to bring to justice perpetrators of the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians in the townships. 

One would assume that while the rest of the world is being vile and angry with the LGBT community, the situation in Uganda should not be as bad since we are ‘friendly’ people. Far from it. In fact, the LGBT community in Uganda lives in constant fear, unaware of where and when the next attack will come from but sure that there is one right around the corner. 

In the run-up to May 17th, as the world was marking International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), the LGBT community in Uganda was pacing about, hoping and praying for their friends who had been illegally arrested and detained for nearly 49 days. As if destined by the Universe and purposed by fate, exactly on the day the world was marking IDAHOBIT, the 19 people were released after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) withdrew all charges against them. Apt! 

While one can finally smile that the innocent Ugandans were finally released, it goes without saying that the question ‘why were they arrested in the first place’ remain(s) unanswered but elicits the response ‘because they were thought to be members of the LGBT community.’

Situations like these continue to be a mark of the Ugandan society and while the rest of us battle with the Covid 19 Pandemic, the LGBT community has to contend with not just the pandemic but a risk to their lives brought on by their sexuality. 

30 years ago – on May 17, 1990 – the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This week as the world marks The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) one can only hope that Ugandans who are not members of the LGBT community can look within themselves and start to treat other folks like human beings. One can only hope that Ugandans can remember that being friendly and kind to someone does not mean you are like them, it just means you and them may be different but you are still able and willing to treat them like a human being.

There are many members of the LGBT community who live in fear of constant persecution and torment not just from strangers on the internet and on the streets but from their own friends and family. And that makes it a whole lot tougher for these folks because the people they are supposed to be running to for solace have only turned up the heat for them to get burned. As human beings, we ought to be a little more considerate and less hateful when talking to or relating with people whose beliefs we do not subscribe to.

Finally, the unfortunate assumption that anyone who speaks up for LGBT rights is a member of the community is one that continues to stoke the fire of homophobia. We must realize that we do not have to be members of certain communities to see the evils being inflicted on those communities. We simply have to be normal human beings who feel for others – nothing more.

“Speaking up for rights and equality doesn’t require any specific sexuality or gender, all it requires is that you are human.” ― Abhijit Naskar

Bernard Ewalu Olupot
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter, @beewol on Instagram and Beewol on Facebook 

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