So many times when Uganda’s LGBTI community has tried to hold public events, like a Pride parade or a film festival, police have stormed in leaving people scared for their lives.
Gay sex is illegal in Uganda and LGBTI people face extreme persecution and violence.
‘Life for LGBT persons is harsh, it’s very difficult to survive. It’s especially hard to find a job when people know that you’re LGBT,’ 24-year old artist Alicia Nalunkuma told Gay Star News.
Everyday in Uganda, LGBTI people live in fear.
‘It’s very traumatizing and depressing. You feel hopeless because you can’t run or turn to any body because the laws don’t protect you and the police can’t be trusted with your story,’ Nalunkuma said.
We refuse to be silent
But despite the fear and persecution, Uganda’s LGBTI people are putting up a fight. Under the name of Rainbow Riots, LGBTI activists in Uganda are using music to protest transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia.
Performing artist, Madam J said LGBTI people don’t have the same opportunities as heterosexual people. But ‘on the other hand many LGBTI people have come out to fight for their rights’.
‘They have refused to be silenced by those against their rights and freedom,’ the 29-year-old said.
‘LGBTI and human rights organizations have continued to do their work without giving up easily.’
One idea the LGBTI advocates came up with is to open a dedicated safe space for the rainbow community. The Rainbow Riots LGBTI Center will become the first permanent place the east African country for the community to meet and seek refuge. It will also provide shelter for homeless LGBTI people.
‘There are few places in Uganda where LGBTI persons can go to be openly LGBTI without the fear of violence and insults,’ Madam J said.
‘Most community activities and workshops take place hotels, public places which in most cases are raided by police. Rainbow Riots’ idea of setting up the center is to increase the quality and safety of the LGBTI community.’
Rainbow Riots center
The LGBTI center is the brainchild of Uganda’s LGBTI advocates and Swedish music producer, Petter Wallenberg. The producer founded Rainbow Riots and has worked closely with LGBTI Ugandans.
‘I wanted to create this centre for my Ugandan LGBT brothers and sisters. Since I founded Rainbow Riots I have seen with my own eyes how cruel life is for Ugandan LGBT people – most significantly the time we were all held hostage in the violent Police raid of Pride Uganda 2016,‘ he said.’
‘This has made me dedicated to do strive for a change. As a gay man who has lived through modern day liberation in Europe I know that change can happen if we all band together and fight for our rights.
‘Now I want everyone around the world to help us fight against the horrific injustice against LGBT people in Uganda. By creating this centre we can take a stand for every human’s right to equality and love.’
It’s so important
The LGBTI center will be critical for the community who struggle to get by everyday.
‘This will be a feel at home space that will be an easy found destination to welcome the community and bringing to them a sense of belonging, ownership, shelter, and safety where a variety of activities will be taking place. The center will provide an environment for vision performing, socializing, meeting, and learning,’ Madam J said.
‘LGBTI people will find a nurturing place for relaxation that offers a renewal of spirit in a peaceful retreat for meditation and personal reflection.’
It will also be a space to promote creative expression. The center will encourage the creation of music, dance and all art forms. It will also have a recording studio which LGBTI people will be able to use for free.
Stand with Uganda
What the Rainbow Riots LGBTI Center really needs is support. The advocates are asking people to donate some funds to make their dream a reality.
‘The creation of the center can only be made possible if the rest of the world stands with the LGBTI community in Uganda,’ Madam J said.
‘The donation from people will not only make a real difference in the lives of LGBTI people in Uganda but also it will increase the safety and security measures if the safe space is created.’
For Nalunkuma, the reason people should donate and support the center is very simple.
‘People should donate because this centre will be a safe space for the vulnerable LGBT persons were they can belong,’ she said.
‘It will also be a creative space which will will cater for many who can’t manage money for activities and don’t have other chances to to express themselves.’
Rainbow Riots and AllOut have come together to setup a crowdfunding campaign to help make sure the vital center gets to open its doors.