We are Here, We are Gay and We are Ugandans
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. Publicly identifying as gay or being identified as such can result in the loss of a job, arrest, harassment, blackmail, threats, and beatings. Anti-gay sentiment is widespread and outings in tabloid papers are common.
In October 2009 the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in the previous Ugandan parliament. Under the guise of protecting family values, it proposed life imprisonment for anyone engaged in homosexual activities and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” (some of the offenses are homosexual activity with a person under 18 years old or if the offender is HIV positive). Additionally, the Bill prohibited any production and dissemination of information related to homosexuality and prescribed jail time for anyone (including friends, parents, doctors, priests) that fails to report homosexual activity to the authorities.
The Bill was met with opposition from human rights groups, western governments, some religious leaders and even Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the Bill. The previous parliament didn't pass the Bill, but it was reintroduced in the new parliament in late 2012 and awaits debate. The proponents claim the death penalty has been removed from the Bill, and the focus is now on punishing promotion and recruitment into homosexuality. Still, the new wording of the Bill has remained secret.
I started the series of portraits and interviews with LGBTI activists in early 2010 with the aim to give voice, if not face, to the members of the gay community. In the interviews they express their views of the Bill, of homosexuality in African society and Uganda, and they tell their personal stories of struggle and threats and also their hopes for the future. Due to the precarious situation, they did not want to be identified and they were photographed from behind. In 2013 I revisited the same people. In three years, as a reaction to the draconian Bill and to continued outings, they have become more empowered, assertive and confident. Despite the risks, they are now willing to face the world.