The New Cockroaches

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This article is part of Canvas’ LGBT History Month mini-issue.

On January 26th 2011 David Kato, the “father of Uganda’s gay rights movement”, was brutally murdered when a man assaulted him with a hammer in his own home. David’s funeral was attacked by anti-gay rights protesters, whilst the Christian preacher at the funeral preached against the gays and lesbians present, making comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah. David had helped co-found the charity SMUG, our charity of the year.

The life of a Ugandan LGBT person (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is highly dangerous, with the political climate actively persecuting and victimizing people, in order to “bring them to gods justice”.  In 2009 Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati proposed the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, calling for homosexuals to be executed, as well as criminalizing those who help LGBT people. He uses rhetoric widely used in the Rwandan genocide (a country bordering Uganda) to stigmatize the Tutsi people, and allow their mass murder. He calls them the “Cockroaches.”

Many activists, politicians and historians point to the colonial history of Uganda, and the role of American Evangelists in the spread of LGBT hate. Regardless of the origins of LGBT hatred, it exists as a terrifying and seemingly legitimate point of view in Uganda politics. This leads to LGBT people being hunted, murdered and raped, with the police doing nothing about it. In 2010 the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone printed pictures of 100 known homosexuals in Uganda, calling for people to hang them. This lead gay rights activists, and LGBT people at huge risk, fearing their lives.

This is why Sheffield University LGBT committee have adopted SMUG as our charity of the year, with fundraising events taking place frequently.  SMUG is an umbrella organization for various LGBT groups in Uganda, as well as a center for documenting atrocities within Uganda. Our money will help youth groups, an LGBT library amongst other things. If you would like to get involved with this campaign, or simply donate some money, please contact Siobhan Bligh at  lgbt@sheffield.ac.uk

Written by Siobhan Bligh

For more information:

  • LGBT Committee website;
  • Watch film “Call Me Kuchu”
  • Read Smug website