On Jan 23, 2017 76 Crimes published: Scarred by beatings in Uganda, LGBT refugee Kwesigabo Simon has been approved for resettlement from Kenya to the United States. Here he tells his story:
By Kwesigabo Simon
I was born in Uganda, in the southern Masaka district in Kalisizo sub-county, to unknown parents. They abandoned me as a baby.
I was raised by Mr. Gabunga Mbanji, a farmer who already had five children. He struggled to pay my expenses, especially school fees. I left primary school at about age 7.
For my first 17 years, before I moved to Kampala, people didn’t discriminate against me. Then my older sister urged me to join her in the city, which I did in 2013. My sexual orientation started attracting attention; I wasn’t able to hide it from our neighbors. I decided to rent a small room in the Munyonyo suburb.
I was lucky enough to have fallen in love with Denis back in Kalisizo. I used to pay visits to him in Kalisizo, but our relationship eventually attracted the attention of neighbors there. At first they thought we were brothers, but one day in May 2013 a fierce Christian neighbor stumbled onto us and was embarrassed by our joyous and delightful times.
He rushed to report us at the Kalisizo police station, where he accused us of having sex. On his way back from the station, he called together what seemed like the entire village. They kicked in our door and chased us out the house. The crowd cursed at us and stripped us of our clothing. A police officer beat us and locked us in a cell with a bare floor.
The officer warned the other prisoners about our sexuality, which made imprisonment worse. Each night, prisoners beat us in a ritual that they thought would chase out the “queer evil” from our bodies. I was left with a huge scar on my shoulder from all the beatings.