On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, Uganda made headlines after passing laws that deemed identifying as LGBT+ punishable by 20 years in prison. While 36 out of Africa’s 54 countries have long-standing laws that criminilize homosexuality, none have ever been as strict as Uganda’s. Western nations have been quick to condemn the country’s new ruling, as have human rights and LGBT organizations across the African continent. When I saw this news on my own instagram feed, I was disheartened.
Before I continue, I want to start by saying that as queer advocates in the West, whether we are black or not, we should be careful about our criticisms of events in the Global South. I say this because the societies of the countries we inhabit, through no fault of our own as members of the African diaspora, benefit, unfortunately, from the turmoil that rages across these countries.
Uganda has had a host of issues since the British’s involvement within the old kingdom of Buganda, and likely before that, but this legislative movement has been on the horizon since 2014 with the original “Kill the Gays” bill. Uganda’s most recent law has broadened the criminalization of queerness beyond anything seen before.
As I read more stories about homophobia in Uganda, I can’t help but wonder, why? Why perpetuate so many laws despite decades of existence as an independent nation? Why target and maim people who could be great contributors to society?
I am unsure of what is next for queer people across Africa and the anglophone Caribbean. While I hope that things will get better, the resistance some countries have put up against equitable life for all of their citizens is alarming. Who will follow Uganda’s footsteps? Will it be Jamaica? Will it be Trinidad? It is hard to say.
The future is uncertain for queer people, but admist the smoke we have to keep walking forward. Not only for ourselves, but for each other.