On Aug 10, 2016 CBC News reported: ‘I don’t want to enjoy the freedom too much. I know I have to leave it behind,’ says Ugandan lesbian swimmer
Just last week, Clare Byarugaba and Abedayo Katiiti were sitting in a Ugandan jail cell. They were arrested when police raided a gay pride event they were attending in their home country.
Today, they’re at the Kinsmen Sports Centre in Edmonton competing in the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) Championship, representing Uganda, a country that treats them with hostility and violence.
All five members of the Uganda Kuchus Aquatic Team, some of whom wish not to be identified for fear of retribution back home, were celebrating Pride week in Uganda last Thursday when police raided the Mr. and Miss Pride Pageant with guns in hand.
A photo from the Mr and Miss Pride Uganda Pageant Aug 4, before police raided the event and arrested 20 people. (Didi Bakuraira)
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that prohibits sex acts “against the order of nature.”
Katiiti, a transgender man who was voted Mr. Pride Uganda, said police officers grabbed him and fondled him before taking him into custody.
“They undressed me, checked whether I was a man or a woman. It was really so embarrassing,” he said.
Nearly 300 people were at the event and 20 were arrested, including Katiiti and Byarugaba. The two knew they were set to compete in Edmonton just a few days later, but weren’t sure the government would let them attend.
“To be in a cell days ago, and to be in a country where I don’t have to be afraid to express who I am … is just amazing,” Byarugaba said.
Clare Byarugaba and her Uganda Kuchus Aquatic teammates are set to compete in the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championship in Edmonton this week. (Rick Bremness/CBC )
Both athletes say they live their lives in fear of persecution and mob violence. Byarugaba said she’s so happy to leave that fear behind while she’s in Canada, but it’s bittersweet.
“I don’t want to enjoy the freedom too much,” she said. “I know I have to leave it behind, so I don’t want to get too used to it because it’s hard for me to adjust when I get back home.”
The IGLA Championship welcomes gay and lesbian aquatic athletes from all over the world to compete in the inclusive event. This is the first time Uganda has been represented.