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Uganda demands probe into 'LGBTQ activities' in schools

Frank Yiga in Kampala, Uganda
January 31, 2023

The Ugandan parliament is investigating what it calls the festering of homosexual activities in schools, amid public outcry. The country is known for its staunch opposition to homosexuality.

A person wearing a rainbow mask
Homosexuality is still considered illegal in many African countriesImage: Dai Kurokawa/picture-alliance/dpa

Anna, not her real name, sits in a chair at her home in Makindye, a suburb of Uganda's capital, Kampala.

She showed DW the scars that are visible on her body, and explained that the wounds were inflicted by a mob who were against her sexuality. Anna is transgender.

However, experiences like those Anna suffered haven't stopped her from speaking out, and calling for the protection of  LGBTQ rights in her country.

Those rights have come under scrutiny once more in a country known for its staunch opposition to homosexuality. In Africa, same-sex partnerships are only legal in about half of the continent's 54 states.

Many countries outlaw homosexuality, and LGBTQ people still live in fear of attacks, imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks, smiling and gesturing, in a military uniform
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is a fierce critic of homosexualityImage: ABUBAKER LUBOWA/REUTERS

Intolerance toward LGBTQ community

Now, according to recent media reports, a teacher has been transferred from his school to another location for engaging in homosexual activities, sparking further public outcry.

But Anna said she isn't surprised, and insisted that people must be allowed to express their sexuality no matter where they find themselves.

"The only thing is that people are probably expressing their feelings in the wrong places with the wrong people," she said.

Anna doesn't encourage LGBTQ relationships between teachers and their students, but wants people to be allowed to freely express how they feel.

"It is very wrong for teachers to actually date students, but it is not wrong for students to express their sexuality," she told DW.

LGBTQ+ rights across Africa

Are Ugandan teachers and students promoting LGBTQ activities?

Teachers and students have been cited as superspreaders of what some Ugandan lawmakers have called character-killing morals.

Debates have already taken place on the floor of Uganda's parliament amid reports about sexual minorities gaining ground in schools.

Anita Among, the speaker of parliament, has now directed the Education Committee to investigate schools suspected of encouraging LGBTQ rights.

She told committee members to look into social media stories about gays in which a teacher is transferred from one school to another because of being gay. "Can you pick up that issue and report to the House, we are killing our morals," she said recently.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, despite a 2016 court ruling that found the 2014 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act invalid on procedural grounds.

The Penal Code Act still categorizes homosexuality as a crime against morality.

Kenyan supporters of the LGBT community stage a protest against Uganda's anti-gay bill in front of the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya,
The LGBTQ community in Africa remains stigmatized and marginalizedImage: Dai Kurokawa/dpa/picture alliance

Call to protect minors, families

Some parents don't think the government is doing enough to protect their children from homosexual activities in schools, citing the fact that family identity is one of the moral fibers of Ugandan society.

Doreen Ndeezi, a mother of four, told DW the country would lose its culture and values if the situation is not urgently addressed.

"In Africa the family is regarded as the strongest and main unit of a society, where you have the parents and children, then you go into building up the extended family, where you have relatives and all that — grandpa, grandma, cousins, you name it," she told DW.

Maureen Akatukunda, a Kampala resident, welcomes the decision of legislators to investigate cases of LGBTQ practices in schools, but told DW that the priority should be protecting minors.

"Of course, when someone is an adult, they can make a choice. It is their right to choose which path they want to take. But for minors, there should be an ethical team on board that is protecting minors in schools," she said.

Some Ugandans, like Chris Kiwanuka, argue that LGBTQ rights should not be given any attention or room to fester.

"It is a Western project," Kiwanuka insisted, adding that the world has become more dangerous since people increasingly equate homosexuality with human rights. "The human right of a man to sleep with another man, where?" he questioned.

A LGBTQ refugee from Congo holds up a rainbow flag
Some Ugandans have accuse people who identify as LGBTQ of wanting to destroy the family unitImage: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

'People have failed to accept the changing times'

Meanwhile, some education experts, including Godfrey Busobozi, have called for calm among Ugandans. He told DW that there is no need to panic.

He said LGBTQ rights have existed for centuries, and urged Ugandan society to learn to live with people of such orientations while safeguarding their cultural values.

"The issue is that people have failed to accept the changing times, so we should learn to live with it because this is an era of knowledge," said Busobozi. "Whatever was not known is becoming known, but now, as a society, we need to guard our values jealously."

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu