UGANDA has held its LGBTI pride rally since its widely-criticised anti-homosexuality law was overturned earlier this month, a sight few expected the country would see again in the near future.
The law banning “promotion of homosexuality” that had been condemned by US President Barack Obama as “a step backwards for all Ugandans” was struck down on August 1 by the country’s Constitutional Court after being signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February.
Last Saturday’s “invitation-only” pride rally was given permission to be held by Entebbe police – a city 35km south-west of the capital Kampala – according to the rally organiser Sandra Ntebi.
“This event is to bring us together. Everyone was in hiding before because of the anti-homosexuality law,” she said.
“It is a happy day for all of us, getting together.”
LGBTI advocates and activists danced to music and laughed as they gathered in a park close to Uganda’s presidential palace, with one man reportedly wearing a sticker on his face reading: “Some Ugandans are gay. Get over it.”
Movement is already underway to bring back the law that was struck down on a technicality, with the government launching an appeal against the country’s most senior court and some MPs signing a petition for a new vote on the bill.
Deputy attorney-general Fred Ruhinda said: “We are unsatisfied with the court ruling…the law was not intended to victimise gay people, it was for the common good.”
Around the time of the introduction of the law in February, President Museveni described homosexuals as “disgusting” to CNN.
“They’re disgusting. What sort of people are they? I never knew what they were doing. I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting,” he said.
Homosexuality is still illegal and punishable in Uganda with a jail sentence, but it is no longer illegal to promote homosexuality and Ugandans are no longer obliged to report LGBTI people to the authorities.
Rights groups blamed the overturned law for a spike in homophobic assaults on members of the country’s LGBTI community, but homophobic attitudes remain rife.
Despite still being a target for abuse, more than 100 people openly celebrated the pride rally.
A few police were in attendance as peaceful calls for people to “join hands” to end the “genocide” of LGBTI people were made.