Uganda - historic LGBT conference

Peter Tatchell | November 09, 2007

KAMPALA — The Ugandan Chapter of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) was launched this month at a conference in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

It was attended by 100 LGBT activists from half a dozen Ugandan LGBT and human rights groups, in an impressive show of unity and solidarity.

Among the organisations represented were Open Door Counselling Ministries, Spectrum-Uganda, Queer Youth Uganda, Ice Breakers, Uganda Youth Health, Breaking the Silence and MUSLA.

The highlight of the conference was a landmark debate organised with Queer Youth Uganda, concerning the way forward for LGBT rights in the country.

Speakers at the conference included the East Africa Representative of the International Lesbian & Gay Association, Sam Ganafa, who was commended as "a pillar of equality," and Sam Opio, Chair of Queer Youth Uganda, a vibrant organisation concerned with youth health and welfare rights.

The keynote speaker was Professor Louis-Georges Tin, the gay black French anti-racist campaigner and the International coordinator of IDAHO. He stressed the need for unity among LGBT people and with other human rights campaigners. He also spoke about the achievements of IDAHO to date. Drawing attention to Uganda's on-going criminalisation of sex between men, Professor Tin highlighted the need for the United Nations to adopt a resolution for the "Universal Decriminalisation of Homosexuality".

The conference also heard from Ugandan speakers who detailed the oppressive homophobic persecution that exists in their country. Under laws inherited from the British colonial period, male homosexuality is totally illegal and punishable by life imprisonment.

Many LGBT Ugandans have lost their jobs, been cast out by their families, and faced threats, intimidation and violence.

As well as LGBT rights, the conference discussed issues relating to HIV awareness and prevention, and the exclusion of gay people from the Ugandan government's HIV education, prevention and support programmes.

Derek Lennard, the IDAHO UK coordinator, commented: "The fact that this meeting took place at all is astonishing. It is clearly up to campaigners in Uganda to decide how they can address the oppression they face. However, I am sure that all those involved in IDAHO campaigns and initiatives in the UK will want to support them in whatever way we can, and to express our pride in working alongside them to fight the international scourge of homophobia and transphobia".

For more information, contact Derek Lennard: dmlennard@blueyonder.co.ukIssued by Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund

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