Sexual Minorities Uganda-SMUG joined Freedom and Roam Uganda-FARUG to celebrate the annual International Women’s Day on 8th March 2019 with the theme “Balance for Better.” Despite the security threats faced that forced us to move the celebration to another venue, the event that was to begin at 4pm was delayed by two hours, fortunately by 6pm we were ready to begin.
Our Admin Diane Sydney Bakuraira, FARUG Executive Director Joan Ssenfuka Warry, and other leaders welcomed the huge number of Lesbian, Bisexual women, Queer women and other allies who turned up today to celebrate International Women’s Day with us.
While speaking on behalf of SMUG Diane Sidney Bakuraira our admin said, “Sexual Minorities Uganda partnered with FARUG as one of our founding members because we support the human rights of LBQ women. We pledge to continue advocating for the human rights of LBQ women as this is our mandate.”
FARUG ED Biggie said “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry but I’m grateful for SMUG and other organisations that have enabled us to celebrate this day despite the difficult security situation. Thank you all for honoring us today.”
The security anomaly occurred when the organizers from FARUG approached the chairman who sits at the local police station to notify them about the women’s day celebration at their offices in accordance with the public order management act. The chairman okayed the event, unfortunately this was overheard by the head of the local police unit who shares a desk with the chairman. The police officer joined the conversation uninvited and said he would not allow for the event to take place without consulting his supervisors. The police officers allegedly received “orders from above” to stop all LGBTIQ related gatherings because apparently such gatherings are gay weddings.
Late in the night on Thursday a police officer called one of the organizers and ordered them to report to another police station in Namugongo police station that is way out of the area code where the FARUG offices are located, upon reporting to Namugongo police station as ordered, the organizers were asked to seek permission from Kampala Metropolitan Police. By this time the organizers were frustrated and they realized it would be too late for them to secure FARUG offices as a venue because by the time they got back with or without permission to hold the event, some members and well-wishers would have already gotten to FARUG offices which would put their lives at risk.
They then decided to outsource another space, one could visibly notice the organizers’ crestfallen faces but they had to soldier on. By the end of the evening, they had cheered up upon seeing the success of the event.
Participants at the second venue where we celebrated #IWD2019 without any “moral police” interference.
Participants got free health services including HIV testing and counseling and after the speeches and the reading of the press statement, lots of music, dance, food and drinks flowed without any interference.
Our take home from International Women’s Day Celebration 2019 is that we will not be threatened by cowardly acts, our work as human rights defenders will continue until there is justice for all.
NOTE: A few weeks ago while attending the monthly Social Friday gathering at FARUG offices, some LBQ women were arrested and temporarily detained at the local police station where officers ridiculed them and called them all sorts of derogatory names . They were not charged with any offence and were set free when the FARUG Communications Officer stood surety for them. This impunity by “moral police” is a continuous practice facilitated by institutional homophobia. It goes as far as when police raided a Pride event in 2016 terming it a gay wedding to an event organized by SMUG in 2018 where heavily armed police officers put us under gun point and ordered everyone to vacate the premises or face the consequences. The excuse they gave for stopping the event was that, we were holding a gay wedding.