August 9, 2015 – Reported by the Wall Street Journal – ENTEBBE, Uganda—Hundreds in Uganda’s gay community rallied in a march hailed as a small victory for gay rights after the government tried to impose lifetime jail terms for homosexual acts last year.
Banner-waving gay, lesbian and transgender participants marched, danced and sang along to music in Saturday’s Gay Pride celebrations, even as some wore masks out of fear of being identified. The gathering took place on the shores of Lake Victoria a year after a court overturned the antigay law.
“It’s a great honor today that we are here without any trouble,” said Kasha Jacqueline, an attendee who, like others, hoped the move to scrap the law could herald a softening of the government’s position against homosexuality.
“We’re happy the government realized there are more pressing issues than people’s sexual orientation,” she said. “But the struggle continues.”
Gay people in Uganda have long lived secretive lives, fearing social stigma and prosecution by authorities in a country where homosexuality remains illegal and conservative views generally prevail. Last year, the government approved new, draconian antigay legislation that attracted harsh international criticism and prompted some Western donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid to the African country. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry likened the law—which made homosexual acts punishable by life in prison—to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
Amid the international outcry, Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the law last August due to a technicality. Conservative lawmakers have pledged to reinstate the legislation—which was among the harshest in Africa, where homosexual acts are illegal in 37 countries.
Still, some activists say they have seen an easing of government pressure in recent months. Gay rights groups, once banned or raided by police, have been allowed to work more freely, activists say. Evictions of gay tenants by landlords have also begun to ease, according Patrick Mukajanga, the head of St. Paul’s Voice Centre, a Ugandan gay rights group…story continues below…