Last year’s inaugural Pride event was broken up by police in this extremely homophobic East African nation which is most famous in recent years for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which proposes strict punishments (including the death penalty) for homosexual acts.
While international pressure, quiet diplomacy and homegrown activists have succeeded in keeping the legislation at bay to date, the atmosphere in Uganda is nonetheless extremely difficult for gay men and women — making this event all the more remarkable and inspiring.
At the parade and beach party which followed on Aug. 3, approximately 100 men and women, many adorned with rainbow flags, sparkling face paint and festive attire, gathered at the lovely beach shore setting to mingle, dance, drink and share heaping plates of Uganda’s ever-popular nyama choma (grilled meat).
As locals gathered peacefully outside the fence surrounding the beach to watch the events inside with a mix of amusement and bewilderment, Pride-goers expressed themselves openly and freely, shared nothing but big smiles and sassy laughter and found respite — however brief — from a culture which forces the vast majority of them to remain closeted or lead double lives.
While the Pride gathering was small by the standards of large Western cities, its meaning and power were enormous. Those who attended risked almost everything and yet they came. And they laughed and shared and reminded Uganda and the world that they are still here and still going strong.