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Project September 12, 2017

An Uneasy Situation for LGBT Ugandans


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For LGBTQ Ugandans, the infamous 'Kill The Gays' bill brought both unexpected benefits in the form of foreign funding and support, but also a violent backlash among the general public. Image by Jake Naughton. Uganda, 2017.

In late 2013, Uganda grabbed the world's attention when its parliament passed the now-infamous "Anti-Homosexuality Act," better known colloquially as the 'Kill the Gays' bill. A Ugandan court eventually struck down the bill, but the ensuing firestorm produced headlines the world over.

The unlikely ending to that story is little known. Years after debates over homosexuality turned heated in Uganda, international publicity for gay rights generated opportunities for gay Ugandans that would have been unthinkable before the bill: partnerships with foreign embassies are common, LGBT organizations host events with drag performances, and leading LGBT Ugandan activists travel the world speaking about their work.

But at the same time, these activists are struggling to deal with the flip side of that recognition. "There's a lot more visibility for the LGBTI community because we have the space to talk to people," said Leticia Opio, founder of Queer Youth Uganda and a transgender woman who was attacked on Christmas Eve 2016. "But that does not mean the attacks have stopped. No, the more people who know you, the more at risk you are."

Photojournalist Jake Naughton looks at the hard-won visibility for Uganda's LGBT community and the pushback this community now faces from the general population: stories of beating, kidnappings and extortions seem to be rising, not falling, and today it may be more dangerous to be gay in Uganda than ever before.


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