Uganda grabbed international headlines in 2009 when an anti-gay bill -- often called the "Kill the Gays bill" as it includes execution as a punishment for homosexual acts -- was introduced to the country's national legislature. Three years later, the bill reared its ugly head again after being re-introduced in February 2012 by David Bahati, the Ugandan politician who authored the proposed law, partly in response to the Obama administration's push for global gay rights as part of a wider human rights campaign.
Despite international support, within Uganda, the fate of openly gay men and women remains perilous. Gay activist David Kato was beaten to death in 2011, and shocking reports of violence continue to pour out of the country. Uganda-based photographer Tadej Znidarcic decided to photograph some of the men and women who make up the secret world of gay Uganada. Below each image are the thoughts and experiences of being gay in Uganda by the unnamed subject.
"I used to be religious, but I'm not anymore. I lost my religion because of all the hatred preached by the Christians here. I'd rather go to my room and pray by myself to God. I know that God is there.
This guy asked me whether I was married. I said no, I love men, I don't love women. He was interested, we exchanged numbers. We met the next day and he took me on his boda (motorcycle). Then he said he had run out of fuel, so I got off. There were policemen waiting. One slapped me. The one from my tribe said I was shaming them. He said he would call the media and put my picture in the newspaper. I got very scared. They took me to the police station. I had to write that I wanted to sodomize the guy. I refused. They were humiliating me, pushing me with their guns. They told me the guy wanted 1.5 million shillings. I had 15,000 in my wallet. They took it. I said I could raise only 300,000. It was money to pay my brother's school fees. I hired a taxi and went to my place with two policemen. The driver and one policeman stood outside. I went inside with the other policeman and gave him the money. I was released at 3:00 am."
If I am gay and not disturbing other people, minding my own business, why would they take me to prison? I am a peaceful person, why would they kill me? We won't be free, especially us, tomboys. They can suspect we are gay and, if the bill passes, anyone can tell the police. I will not change the way I dress, the way I look. That's me.
My family suspects. If I tell them, they will hate me. My brother once read texts on my phone that I sent to my girlfriend. He asked me if the messages were going to a guy or a girl. I didn't answer."
This guy I know stole my phone. People were calling and he told them: 'he is homosexual and he's gonna be arrested.' My boss came and asked me about it. I told him. I'm here, let the police come and arrest me.
I accepted myself when I was 25. I had this partner, a friend. He told me, 'If what you do makes you happy, then go ahead and do it.' I didn't get it at first. Later I rephrased it. 'If being gay makes you happy, then do it.'"
I don't go to church. The church criticizes homosexuality too much. They say it's madness. We are believers, but can't go to church. Wherever we go, they talk about homosexuality. They think we do it for money.
In bars, people insult me. We play pool and they say, 'Are you a man or a girl?' They want to fight me, threaten to rape me. A few years ago, my stepmother saw me on TV when my lesbian organization ran a workshop. When I came back home, she insulted me, made fun of me. She even went to my landlord, told her to send away 'this evil.' I wasn't ready for that. I had to hide until my organization found me another place.
I don't want to go back in the closet. I really want to stay here. I love home. I can't run forever."
I think if the bill is passed in the Parliament, the hunt will begin, the witch hunt. Raids and blackmail will intensify. They will feel encouraged by the law.
Right now there is no future for the gay community. Right now we are just hoping and praying."
I was sexually harassed by colleagues at work. Every day I left the office late. One evening, a colleague also stayed late, pretending he had work. He started touching me. I told him I don't like guys.
At that time, some butch friends were coming for lunch regularly. Then there was a story in Red Pepper that I am dating one of them. I found photocopies of the article on the notice board at work. I became extremely paranoid because of the attitude of people I worked with. One month after the article came out, I took sick leave. When I came back, they let me work one day, then terminated me. Later, my boss called me to see if I was ok. He asked me if I was a lesbian. He told me he had no problem, but that people at work had complained about me. 'Guys wanted a fuck,' he said. Then they used the article as a scapegoat and fired me, because I wouldn't give them a fuck."
I've been threatened with rape to show me I am a real woman. I get harassed everywhere, in public transport, the market, streets, bars, restaurants.
I don't want to give the impression that it is so impossibly hard here. It is tough, but not that hard. People even fear to come here. I would like them not to have the picture that it is so terrible."
After the bill was introduced, when I went home some people attacked me verbally. They said that I was a sinner, that I shouldn't be trusted with their daughters. Some bikers shouted at us, 'We will screw your ass.' I don't have words to call that a bill. I call it horror, death. I ask myself if a human being drafted that shit. They pretend they fight for family tradition. But no human being can wish death or life imprisonment for another. How can you compare me to people who kill children? I just love women. If the bill passes, we will have to close our office. The landlord could be arrested, family, friends could be arrested. You can't go to anyone for help. People will start to kill themselves.
After 10, 20, 50 years, we will have a future. Like in America, there was a dream of a black president. And the dream came true. It took years. The world is moving forward. Uganda doesn't want to be left behind. Homosexuality is so African that colonialists set up laws against it. Why would they set up laws if there were no homosexuals? Homosexuals were already here. Homosexuality is everywhere."
I have a boyfriend now. I can be absolutely sure I didn't learn this from anyone. I know I am this way naturally, since I was seven or eight years old. God understands. I know he created me this way, so why would he condemn me? A year ago I reconciled my sexuality and religion.
Our future is to continue living quietly underground. It will not be like, 'Oh, look, there they are. Hello. Let them enjoy their lives.' Ugandan society is very traditional, religious, modest. There is no chance for gay pride in Kampala. We would be beaten. We're still a long way away."
"When I was in high school, girls used to write me letters, but I didn't understand what they wanted. I was dating men. Things happened when I was with men, but it wasn't good. This was in me and it came out with my first girlfriend.
When I got engaged to her, it was in the papers. The engagement ceremony was by invitation, and one of the guests must have told the New Vision newspaper. The article made me a celebrity, but I lost friends, my employer. They ignored me. Nobody wanted to associate with me. Most of my friends know. At first, it was very hard for them to accept. Some of my friends don't want to hang out with me since they could be called lesbians.
I was in the papers so many times. They listed all the lesbians in Kampala and where they live. I get thrown out of many bars, so sometimes I don't go out. Sometimes men in bars say, 'We will rape you, beat you, gang rape you until you become sensible.' It happens in bars when they want me, and I don't respond to them.
I want to live with my girlfriend, marry, and have a kid or two. With artificial insemination, I would carry her egg, so the child would look like her. She is butch, so she doesn't want to carry the egg."
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