At a gay pride rally on the shores of Lake Victoria, over 100 members of Uganda’s oppressed sexual minority led a party of music, dancing and laughter. The event marked the “unbanning” of the gay community by an act of the Supreme Court which found a draconian anti-homosexual ordinance to be unconstitutional.
Festival-goers wore pride-themed clothing and face paint. Others waved flags and banners that combined the colors of the Ugandan national flag with the famous rainbow colors of the LGBT Pride movement.
“This event is to bring us together,” said Sandra Ntebi, organizer of the rally held in Entebbe over the weekend. “Everyone was in hiding before because of the law… It is a happy day for all of us, getting together.”
Gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence, but activists celebrated openly on Aug. 9.
The law contained provisions for life sentences in prison for “aggravated homosexuality” and up to seven years imprisonment for family members who didn’t turn in LGBT relatives and landlords who did not evict gay tenants.
The ordinance was cancelled over a technicality and may be appealed. Still, for the time being, it is no longer illegal to advocate for the rights of homosexuals and Ugandans are no longer obliged to denounce gays to the authorities.
“Since I discovered I was gay I feared coming out, but now I have the courage after the law was thrown out,” said Alex Musoke, one of more than 100 people at the event.
One pair of activists waved a rainbow flag with a slogan appealing for people to join hands to end the “genocide” of homosexuals. There were few police in attendance and no anti-gay protestors.
President Yoweri Museveni was said to have signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election set for 2016, which would be his 30th year in power.
But it lost him friends abroad, with several international donors freezing or redirecting millions of dollars of government aid, saying the country had violated human rights and democratic principles.