Photo credit: Iain Statham/SIPA/REX Shutterstock
By Nicholas Opiyo
As an attorney and Uganda human rights activist, America’s elections thrill me. It is breathtaking to witness democracy in full roar, as candidates vie for the nation’s highest office.
In Uganda, we hold elections on Feb. 18, and our eight candidates for the presidency are fiercely vying, too. But their ferocity is different; it may put at risk the lives of many Ugandans — our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender-intersex people.
As the election fervor mounts, so have vitriol and physical attacks against these people — despite our success in August 2014 at overturning Uganda’s most draconian anti-homosexuality law in our Constitutional Court. Unfortunately, the government still makes use of several other legal avenues that allow it to punish and silence people whose sexual identity is out of public favor.
Imagine this scene: Uganda was holding its first-ever televised presidential debate last month (though it was shunned by the incumbent candidate, President Yoweri Museveni). Joseph Mabirizi, a pastor and independent candidate, tried to turn voters away from one rival — a former prime minister — by accusing him of supporting “gays,” toward whom the public is nearly unanimous in its hostility.
Public opinion surveys conducted at the end of 2015 by Afrobarometer reported that 92 percent of the Ugandans interviewed think that homosexuality is inconsistent with Ugandan culture and religion. An equal percentage expressed the belief that L.G.B.T.I. people do not deserve the same legal and constitutional protection of their rights as other Ugandans.
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