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The 21-year-old said he and his male friend were dragged out of his Kampala home and beaten.The vicious punishment is just the latest example of forced anal examinations, tracked by Human Rights Watch, in the east African country. It hurts so much, and there is blood.” Ex-restaurant worker Mukasa, who was beaten in January 2014, also said he could not walk the street, collect medicine or claim benefits “because I am a homosexual”.
Not everyone is at the same level of courage and bravery at the same time.
Others didn’t feel able to publicly proclaim their support, which made it easier for the homophobes to dismiss the LGBTI community as “story-tellers” and “traitors”.
So how does Pepe get people to listen when they may feel endangered by association with SMUG? When one hears your truth, it’s hard to ignore you.” He explains the gravity of the situation, that it’s a “life and death struggle and that with their assistance it will get better”.
“We worked one day at a time knowing we could be shut down any minute, or arrested and jailed,” says Pepe. SMUG used every means possible – social media, radio, television, even texts – to broadcast what was happening and call for solidarity from families, diplomats and supporters abroad.
Only 10 years previously, SMUG had gone to such lengths – by changing their appearance and reading up on the Constitution – to win round civil organisations. Some organisations no longer wanted to work with them.
Read, consult, document on the areas you want to influence and always be open to learning from others, even from your adversary.” Persuasion and influencing: Listening, building rapport, reading body language and the power of story-telling Partnerships were to prove vital, if not fragile, over the years to come.
In 2009, an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced to the Ugandan Parliament.
“We opened the door, and there were police and people everywhere,” Mukasa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He has changed his name and says he lives in a shelter away from friends and family.
“The local councilman was there, yelling ‘Out with the homos! “I still have scars from the beatings that followed. Uganda is one of 36 countries in Africa where homosexuality is illegal and one of eight countries globally where Human Rights Watch has evidence of forced anal examinations to prove homosexuality.
The year is 2004, and young activists from the newly formed Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) are repeatedly met with a cold reception when they approach organisations for support.
“Having sagging jeans was kind of fashionable,” says Pepe Julian Onziema, Programme Director and Advocacy Officer at SMUG.
Although this approach gets “mixed reactions”, SMUG still works closely with established organisations and individuals “to legitimise our contribution to promote and protect human rights” And in March 2014, a month after the new law was signed by Uganda's president, SMUG and its allies filed a constitutional challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.