Uganda - Juliet Victor Mukasa

I am 30 years old and a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Activist (LGBT) in Uganda. I am a lesbian and came out at a very young age. When it comes to lesbians and gays, Uganda is hell itself.

During my uncloseted life, I have faced a lot of challenges. I lost my family and friends when they realised that I was a lesbian. They threw me out and never want to have anything to do with me. My family requested me to stop using our family name because it embarrasses our dead father who was called Mukasa. To my family, my dead father is more valuable to them than me; who is still alive and well. This always makes me think that homosexuals are taken to be deader than the dead.

I have been beaten or physically thrown out of public places on more than ten occasions - just because I am a lesbian. I have been abused and insulted on streets, in restaurants, discoteques and bars

As a result of rumours that I am a lesbian, I have been evicted by landlords from houses several times and have been made homeless. On these occasions I often was forced to spend nights on the streets, in bars, in all sorts of places. In these places you meet men who want to teach you how to be straight and I have gone through a lot of ugly things trying to save myself from death. I have stayed almost in every area in Kampala because every time I have to move I seek a place where I am less known

I excelled at school and received high awards in my bank training. Although many of my classmates have secured stable jobs, I have often been fired because my colleagues or boss found out about my sexual orientation. I have been forced to lead a simple life just to survive.

A lot of ugly things have happened in my life as a lesbian and at some point in 2002 I said to myself, "Enough is enough". Life was really tough. Not only mine but that of my other gay and lesbian friends who were also being treated unjustly. It wasn´t fair and so I decided to join the struggle for gay and lesbian liberation in Uganda. I went on radio stations, was quoted in newspapers and magazines. I began to speak out openly against the injustices and advocated for an end to them. I also met with policy makers and members of civil society. With the help of other activists, I have taken the gay and lesbian community in Uganda to another level. We have opened doors.

However, my open involvement in this struggle further exposed me to this homophobic society and as a result the difficulties for me personally became even worse. The suffering I endure today because of my sexual orientation, has risen to another level because of my political activism.

On the 20th of July 2005, my house was raided, illegally searched and documents taken by a government representative in my village. For years these sorts of things have happened to gays and lesbians without anyone raising an eyebrow. But this time, I have vowed to sue this official. It is time to take action. By declaring that my rights were violated I want to make a larger statement about the rights of all gays, lesbians and human rights defenders to be able to carry out their work and live their lives without threat of invasion and intimidation.

Generally LGBT rights in Uganda are abused extensively while the so-called `democratic´ government strengthens the homophobia. The press gives this homophobia a voice, while the unjust laws stipulated in the Penal Code Act institutionalise it. In addition to these, there are religious teachings, cultural beliefs and hate campaigns supported in by political leaders.

We can only create change by working collectively and joining hands with civil society, allies in government and national and international advocacy networks. Through our activities, a day will come when LGBT people will no longer be seen as deader than the dead. Together we can break the chains of bondage.