Friday, July 12, 2024

LGBT+ Conference panel members arrested in Uganda for being LGBT+ activists

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Featured photo by Baylah Close

Story by Baylah Close

On Thursday, a panel of six LGBT+ and civil rights activists were supposed to be gathered in the Student Union Ballroom. They were going to talk to guests of the LGBT+ College Conference about activism and living as LGBT+ people in Africa.  

Instead, a single member, Pamba Paul Samuel, stood before them. The remaining five members, Ngobi Barrack, Jacob Faustine Mange, Daniel Olwenyi and Mohamed Mwasha, have been taken into police custody and are currently in prison.  

Samuel got forced into hiding after his home was burned by a mob. He was in police custody until 10 days prior to his Tennessee arrival. He is the managing director of Together for Uganda, a community-based organization looking to improving the lives of young, old-aged and the LGBT community. They provide education, housing, food and jobs for the many people who find themselves homeless with no support network.  

Lawmakers in Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality bill on March 21, 2023, invoking the death penalty for any who identifies as queer, has sexual relations with a person who has HIV or groups who support the LGBT+ community. Parliament signed the bill and are expecting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to sign it into law.

“The bill is targeting the LGBT people in Uganda…It is very terrible,” Samuel said. “Because of this bill, there is a lot of violence happening right now in Uganda against these people, against us.” 

The LGBT+ community is under attack in Uganda and throughout Africa, with homosexuality criminalized in more than 30 counties on the continent. The community faces physical assaults, sexual assaults, torture, destruction of property and discrimination. Samuel was arrested along with fellow activists, but was able to afford bail and visited us to talk more about what is happening in Uganda. 

“The authorities carry out violent acts against these people, most of whom are arrested, tortured, most of them are in prison, it is not easy what is happening in Uganda right now,” Samuel said.  

Many people that Together for Uganda helps are students who have been kicked out of their homes and disowned by their families. This often leads to them dropping out of school and feeling incredibly hopeless. The new law is said to worsen their conditions.  

“Some of our LGBT people want to commit suicide, some of them have disappointed their parents and some of them have lost their jobs. Most of them are facing harsh discrimination in the community and right now as we speak, over a hundred members of our organization are wasting in prisons all over the country,” Samuel said.  

The presentation mentioned ways to support Uganda during this time. (Photo by Baylah Close).

During the presentation, Samuel showed many photos of their vehicles that were burned by people. He then shared a video of man being wiped simply for being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.  

Samuel urges people to use their voices and platforms to speak out against these events. He states that talking about it helps show support of the community and that people can make a difference by doing so.  

“Your support here from the United States would be highly welcome and one of the ways you can support those people down in Africa is by raising up your voices against the torture, the discrimination, the violence, the hatred that is being targeted towards the LGBT community. We urge you to use your platforms to talk against these things, to talk against what the government is doing, and against what the hostile people are doing to the LGBT community,” Samuel said.  

Samuel enthuses the LGBT+ community and its allies to continue enthusiastic and persistent activism despite the current oppression. He reminds others that together we can make a difference.  

The LGBT+ College Conference runs until this Saturday with a variety of speakers and panelists.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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