As a LGBTQ activist in a country where homosexual acts are punishable, you ought to face multiple challenges. Facing a daunting political landscape in Uganda, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists are gearing up for what they say will be a fierce battle to hang onto gains the movement made during this modern-day, age and era.
Likewise, for the LGBTQ people as well, there is a multitude of challenges they face. As an activist, I have identified problems and disparities facing these vulnerable communities and just like I see critical opportunities, I as well see significant challenges for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Ugandans. People growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTQ) in Uganda face several difficulties including discrimination and social ostracism, threats of violence, possible prison time, stigma and homophobic-based denial, forced unemployment and homelessness, limited or no access to basic services such as health care, just to mention but a few. I will now try to throw more light on some of the challenges in the next paragraphs.
Marginalization and Social Exclusion. Marginalization is at the core of exclusion from fulfilling and full social lives at individual, interpersonal and societal levels. People who are marginalized have relatively little control over their lives and the resources available to them; they may become stigmatized and are often at the receiving end of negative public attitudes. Their opportunities to make social contributions may be limited and they may develop low self-confidence and self-esteem and may become isolated. Social policies and practices may mean they have relatively limited access to valued social resources such as education and health services, housing, income, leisure activities and work. Moreover, lacking other means of support, many LGBTQ youth are forced to turn to criminalized activities such as sex work to survive, which drives them further onto the margins of society and can expose them to greatly elevated risk for HIV/AIDS.
Homelessness. The myriad problems facing LGBTQ people who are homeless include a lack of housing and services that meet their specific needs. Abuse and harassment of LGBTQ homeless people is rampant in the shelter system. Most domestic violence shelters do not accept gay men or transgender people. Homeless LGBTQ youth miss out on education and social support during critical formative years—more than half of homeless LGBTQ youth report experiencing discrimination from peers. People may be kicked out of their jobs, kicked out of their homes and communities, and have landlords evicting them, or be threatened, or be victims of extortion.
Problems of Homophobia. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are more likely to experience intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and the threat of violence due to their sexual orientation, than those that identify themselves as heterosexual. This is due to homophobia. Some of the factors that may reinforce homophobia on a larger scale are moral, religious, and political beliefs of a dominant group. Living in a homophobic environment forces many LGBTQ people to conceal their sexuality, for fear of the negative reactions and consequences of coming out.
Barriers to Care. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) face particular obstacles, barriers, and challenges that frequently make it difficult for them to find and receive competent and affirming healthcare. Hetero-sexist assumptions can adversely affect the quality of treatment, and fear of a negative experience keeps many LGBTQs from seeking help. Organizations and individual therapists are not always LGBTQ friendly, and some therapists may not even recognize their own hetero-sexism. Staff can be judgmental toward LGBTQ sexuality, or be misinformed/uninformed about LGBTQ resources. Basic services such as healthcare will now pose an even bigger challenge for members of Uganda’s LGBTQ community, who will face arrest if they disclose their sexuality. Those involved in activism or human rights work relating to LGBT groups will also be at risk.
It is clear that LGBTQ individuals who basically have different sexual orientation, face discrimination, exclusion from the society, thus quite often, meet with obstacles to satisfy their needs. This exclusion and ostracism could vary from the simplest personal relations to the most general social ignorance, exclusion, ostracism, working simultaneously together, and can even violate the rights of life. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people have long been involved in efforts for racial and economic justice. Today, LGBTQ organizers and groups are increasingly drawing connections between the movement for LGBTQ rights and the movement for economic and racial justice, noting that people have multiple, layered identities and are members of more than one community at the same time, simultaneously experiencing oppression and privilege.
Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to another person. It can be distinguished from other aspects of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior).
Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional and affectionate attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only).
Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. The word homosexual is usually avoided because of its negative connotations relating to the way it has been used in the past.
Sexual orientation is a relatively recent notion in human rights law and practice and one of the controversial ones in politics. Prejudices, negative stereotypes and discrimination are deeply embedded in our value system and patterns of behavior. For many public officials and opinion-makers the expression of homophobic prejudice remains both legitimate and respectable – in a manner that would be unacceptable for any other minority.
The main principles guiding the rights approach on sexual orientation relate to equality and non-discrimination. Human rights advocates, lawyers and other activists seek to ensure social justice and guarantee the dignity of lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
Rights at Stake
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals do not claim any ‘special’ or ‘additional rights’ but the observance of the same rights as those of heterosexual persons.
Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons are denied – either by law or practices – basic civil, political, social and economic rights. The following violations have been documented in all parts of the world:
Through special criminal provisions or practices on the basis of sexual orientation, in many countries lesbians, gays and bisexuals are denied equality in rights and before the law. Often laws maintain a higher age of consent for same sex relations in comparison with opposite sex relations.
The right to non-discrimination and to be free from violence and harassment is usually denied by omitting sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws, constitutional provisions or their enforcement.
The right to life is violated in states where the death penalty is applicable for sodomy.
The right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is infringed upon by police practices, in investigations or in the case of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in detention.
Arbitrary arrest occurs in a number of countries with individuals suspected of having a homo/bisexual identity.
The freedom of movement is denied to bi-national couples by not recognizing their same sex relation.
The right to a fair trial is often affected by the prejudices of judges and other law enforcement officials.
The right to privacy is denied by the existence of ‘sodomy laws’ applicable to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, even if the relation is in private between consenting adults.
The rights to free expression and free association may either be denied explicitly by law, or lesbians, gays and bisexuals may not enjoy them because of the homophobic climate in which they live.
The practice of religion is usually restricted in the case of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, especially in the case of churches advocating against them.
The right to work is the most affected among the economic rights, many lesbians, gays and bisexuals being fired because of their sexual orientation or discriminated in employment policies and practices.
The rights to social security, assistance and benefits, and from here – the standard of living – are affected, for example when they have to disclose the identity of their spouse.
The right to physical and mental health is at conflict with discriminatory policies and practices, some physicians’ homophobia, the lack of adequate training for health care personnel regarding sexual orientation issues or the general assumption that patients are heterosexuals.
The right to form a family is denied by governments by not-recognizing same sex families and by denying the rights otherwise granted by the state to heterosexual families who have not sought legal recognition, but still enjoy several rights. Children can also be denied protection against separation from parents based of a parent’s sexual orientation. Lesbians, gay and bisexual couples and individuals are not allowed to adopt a child, even in the case of the child of their same sex partner.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual students may not enjoy the right to education because of an unsafe climate created by peers or educators in schools.