You want to know what the conditions are like for a kuchu in Uganda at the moment?
Surreal, actually. A virtual state of internal siege.
Maybe I should try to describe the
But, what is normal for a queer Ugandan?
We are just the average Ugandan. Few of us are rich, most of us are bone grinding poor, stumbling day to day from one piece of wage earning scrap to another. A lot of us are jobless and depend on our relatives and friends. And lucky lovers. We are just the average Ugandan, limping on in a severe economy.
Those lucky to be rich don’t define us.., though it seems in popular street myth, we are all powerful and rich.
We are always in a state of
Though children of the soil, we are all hyper aware of how precarious, how unsteady our state of existence usually is.
Very few of us have the privilege of being out at all. Closeted, at home, at work, in the street; it is important that the walls of our closets are as perfect as possible.
We grin and bear it as casual insults are hurled. We duck when our sexuality is hinted at in any way.
Of course it is impossible to hide
Our lives and our means are too close to others. The one-room rentals we have are thin walled. In our cities and towns, Ugandans live literally with little expectation of privacy. Neighbours wonder when ‘friends’ visit and we close the doors. Or when we change our friends too quickly, or when we have ‘peculiar’ friends.
Being kuchu is life long. We cant switch it off, chances of a slip are cumulative and high. We have to have ‘straight’ acquaintances. And sometimes these come to know that there is something different about us. Maybe we just don’t seem enthusiastic enough when talking about the opposite sex. Or too enthusiastic?! Relatives can be a bane. They always get to know…!
And of course lovers, same sex or not. Our most damning secret is always just beneath the surface of our smiles and laughter.
A thick skin is a necessity, as a
Crocodile skin thick. Yet a thin skin too, mind tuned to the social nuances, to know as soon as possible when others are suspicious of us.
[I borrow this pic from the BBC, a nice article by Patience Atuhaire]
When one is blessed with a long time lover in this environment, it can be simply out of this world. Love is love, straight and protected, or illicit and gay. [Its more when it is this kind of secret love, knowing another love you, and cares. That in this sea of mistrust, you have at least one you trust, implicitly.] Love is just love.
Love is just one of those things
that turn us mushy and careless. We are just simple, normal human beings. A
long time relationship can be impossible to hide, always visible, and our
interactions can become ‘suspicious’ to even the most clueless Ugandan.
And lovers can fall out of love, and lash out. Kuchus are so boringly human that I wish we had the superpowers that our detractors believe we do.
Check out this couple in Jinja.
Did this start as a lovers’ tiff? I find it hard to believe that, in today’s Uganda, under conditions of panicked homophobia, even a jealous lover would dare go to police in Uganda to out her lover. Actually, the story on the Monitor website states that the arrests happened after the panic at the school.
“The angry parents, who were blocked fromentering the school, were demanding to take away their children after severalsocial media reports accused the teacher of spoiling their daughters.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the stuff is too believable. The accusations of ‘recruiting’, especially when there are students in the mix. The panic, fuelled by social media messages, leading to a mob raiding the school. Parents panicking to remove their children from maligning influence. Homosexuality a disease, spreading like wildfire. It is really incredible how many Ugandans seem to have this sense that a sexuality is contagious. Like Corvid-19, or the more scary, mysterious Ebola. It is time to panic..! Unfortunately, Ugandans are that naïve. When political and religious leaders are spouting the same nonsense, when they are ready to interprete, mis-interprete or simply mis-inform in their interests, the news that my sexuality is contagious is taken as gospel truth. The pastor said so. The president said so. What greater source is there?
The Jinja lovers. What’s the real
story behind the news headlines? The very sensational news headlines. Some
papers seem to rein themselves in. Reporting more objectively than others.
Two lovers, both gainfully employed. One a teacher, another a merchant of some sort, a timber dealer. Was it a lover’s tiff and one reported to police? Some reports quote the police saying so. Others seem to suggest not.
Of the two ladies, one is quite butch, a fact that is being loudly discussed. With all the leers and smirks. They are in a long term relationship, and have been ‘suspected’ within the community for some time.
“Meanwhile, the teacher and her allegedfemale lover are said to have fled from “Big Daddy”, a local bar in Danida,Masese, Jinja City South Division, where they used to drink malwa, a localbrew.Their prolonged disappearance came after the pair allegedly wanted tospend a night in one of the lodges, but were denied admission by management.”
But that doesn’t seem to have been the trigger. The bill got to parliament. Anti-gay activists organised to ‘have our bill passed’. Ostensibly.
On February 24, thousands of Muslimdemonstrators including students from different schools took to the streets ofJinja City condemning the act of homosexuality
Its subsequent to this that somehow, social media took a decided hand in the affair. Social media led to a stampede, to save the children.
“Hundreds of parents with children at PMM Girls’ School in Jinja Cityon Friday stormed the school, protesting against the alleged existence of ateacher promoting homsexuality. The angry parents, who were blocked fromentering the school, were demanding for the release of their children in schooldormitories after several social media reports accused the teacher of spoilingtheir daughters.”
The teacher was only arrested after that reported mob. And the partner was arrested later.
Evidence is being gathered..,
“The only person we got is a lady who was staying with this deputy head teacher as husband and wife, although they are both females. We got sex toys, condoms in their home and inquiries are continuing,” Mr Enanga [police] said.
Meanwhile, they have apparently been remanded and the case extended, as the ‘authorities try to decide what to charge them with, [in spite of the distinct lack of evidence!]
Fact. They have been charged and condemned, in the court of public opinion. They are kuchu, and all the evidence needed for their conviction is ‘the public believes they are homosexuals’. Period.