Sexual Minorities Uganda-SMUG joined Right Here Right Now Uganda-RHRN for a webinar aimed at addressing the issues faced by the LGBTIQ community because of COVID-19. The discussion was moderated by the SMUG Research and Documentation Officer Richard Lusimbo who guided the panel to put across pertinent issues. They were joined by community members and allies who also had a message to share.
The Sexual Minorities Uganda Programs Director noted, “At Sexual Minorities Uganda, we have a program for LGBTIQ Ugandans called Rights Evidence Action – REAct that documents violations, available interventions and actions taken. Under this we also have psycho social support. Myself I’m a trained counselor. Please, reach out to us for assistance. Although resources are hard to come by, I’m glad that REAct has been able to support members in the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown.” Pepe Julian Onziema added, “It is not a fact that COVID-19 was caused by the existence of queer people as alleged by some religious leaders. We are drafting mechanisms to address this. I hope this pandemic organizes the LGBTIQ community to go back to that sharing heart we had. I encourage the “buddy system” where we share resources. As community members let us endeavor to at least reach out to 5 people within the community and get to know how they are.”
“LGBTIQ people are facing the full force of homophobia during this time. The right to health must exist with other rights like the freedom to association. The rights of LGBT people are the first to be taken away at a time like this, government should intervene. There’s a lack of access to organizations that provide legal aid because the justice law and order sector isn’t seen as an essential service. With the increase in violations, there’s need to reach out to communities and assist them with legal aid so that their human rights are not ignored. Justice delayed is justice denied for example the 19 LGBTIQ people being incarcerated” said Ophelia Kemigisha, Staff Attorney-Chapter Four Uganda.
The Team Leader-Anna Foundation Uganda, Anna Xwexx Morena noted that, “The transgender community is facing double brunt of COVID-19 because some of them are sex workers.” She said, “We find it tasking to access health care services. Before COVID we were able to access medication but now due to the lockdown there’s lack of transportation so we cannot go to hospital for medication. We are working with LGBTIQ and Sex Worker organizations in Uganda to find a way to get medication to community members. Food is also an issue, taking medication on an empty stomach isn’t ideal and many transgender women are opting to go off medication. There’s need for more nutritional support. It will be hard for sex worker transgender women to get back on their feet after the epidemic because they haven’t been able to work due to the lockdown restrictions.”
Anne Alan Sizomu the Technical Advisor-Advocacy at Right Here Right Now said, “Already as a community LGBTIQ face a lot of issues like lack of legal and health services. There’s a general tendency for human rights to be dropped during a pandemic like COVID. Yes we need to have preventions set in place but protecting the vulnerable like LGBTIQ, sex workers is important. Many people are facing mental health issues, unfortunately these services aren’t seen as an essential. There are many issues coming up as a result of fear of COVID these further increases their mental health issues.”
Solome Nakaweesi an International Development Consultant noted, “People saying that COVID is because of LGBTIQ people should be disregarded. We also need to look at religious leaders who might spread this info after COVID. There’s also need to provide food for the community and while at it, we need to re-think our modules of organizing because we can’t meet physically. These will help us feel the sense of caring for each other.”
You can listen to the rest of webinar by clicking this link courtesy of Right Here Right Now Uganda. We hope you enjoy.