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Navigating Threats and Advocating for Equality: Inside the Work of HUREED in Uganda

Navigating Threats and Advocating for Equality: Inside... Navigating Threats and Advocating for Equality: Inside...

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 has led to increased violent acts towards LGBTQI+ persons in Uganda. In the past 12 months, we have received and registered escalating cases of violence towards LGBTIQ+ persons simply because of who they are. Most of them have been evicted from their rented houses by fearful landlords, some have been evicted by their own family members and their communities, and tragically some have lost their lives. We call upon the global LGBTIQ+ community and its allies to join the fight for human rights and equality in Uganda.”  

Human Rights and Economic Empowerment Development (HUREED) is an LGBTQI+ organization striving to protect and empower Uganda’s LGBTQI+ and other marginalized communities. The organization offers various programs, including legal aid, skills training, nurturing local youth leadership, health services including HIV prevention and treatment, and advocacy for policy changes. It also provides direct support to those facing violence, eviction, or arrest due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Overall, HUREED’s comprehensive approach includes community empowerment, economic empowerment, and critical health interventions, alongside support for the basic needs and rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and other marginalized populations.

In 2023, HUREED partnered with Rainbow Railroad to facilitate the travel of four HUREED officers from Uganda to Malaysia, ultimately leading to their resettlement in Canada. Additionally, Rainbow Railroad’s financial assistance enabled HUREED to relocate to a safer office space after receiving numerous threats, allowing them to continue their work in a more secure environment. In 2023, HUREED supported 581 individuals, including those facing arrest or eviction.

Challenges and Risks Under the Anti-Homosexuality Act

Phillip Mutebi, Founder & Executive Director of HUREED

Despite their success in supporting the LGBTQI+ community, HUREED faces significant obstacles in securing stable operational space for their work due to AHA. The law stipulates severe penalties, including imprisonment, for individuals or entities found to knowingly allow premises to be used for activities related to homosexuality. Because of this, landlords are reluctant to lease their properties to individuals or organizations they suspect may breach this law, fearing legal repercussions. The AHA also includes provisions through which the court may impose fines on entities promoting homosexuality or suspend their licenses.

Reflecting on the legal and social challenges that underscore the complex environment in which HUREED operates, Phillip explains, “The AHA poses a direct threat to organizations such as HUREED as it imposes a hefty penalty of one billion Ugandan shillings if a person is found guilty of promoting homosexuality. This makes our work even harder and creates a fear-filled and stressful work environment.”

HUREED staff members often face threats or attacks when they intervene in cases of LGBTQI+ members either with the police or the courts. They have been targeted personally for their gender identity and for being human rights defenders (HRDs), as well as attacked physically, arbitrarily arrested and detained and had their homes raided and broken into by state and non-state actors. Despite these dangers, they remain committed to their mission.

Building a More Inclusive Future

Philip envisions a future for the communities served by HUREED where Uganda acknowledges and respects the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals. He hopes for a Uganda where members of the LGBTQI+ community are embraced by their families and society and can access services without facing discrimination or harm. He also plans to challenge the Anti-Homosexuality laws in Uganda that are currently preventing LGBTQI+ persons from living freely.
In direct response to the AHA, he states, “We request the Ugandan government to annul the Anti-Homosexuality Act between consenting LGBTQI+ persons.”

To LGBTQI+ individuals facing difficulties Philip urges them and their allies worldwide to stand up and speak up against violent acts they or their peers are subjected to.

“We encourage them to advocate for themselves. Once we stand together as a global LGBTQI+ community, we can overcome all difficulties and create permanent change towards freedom. We encourage people to keep on fighting and to stay strong until we can achieve equal rights for all and freedom from governmental-imposed tyranny.”

To HUREED, queer community means love: “We embrace, acknowledge, and support anyone whose identity does not fit into a definition. All queer persons in the entire world are entitled to love whoever makes them happy. Love is Love!”

HUREED staff members at their annual general meeting

A Call for Global Support

To supporters of Rainbow Railroad, Phillip urges them to continue their support so that LGBTQI+ communities worldwide can live in peace. He is also thankful to Rainbow Railroad donors “for supporting an organization that stands with LGBTQI+ organizations and persons tirelessly.”

Through their work, HUREED is paving the way for a more inclusive Uganda, challenging oppressive laws, and creating safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community. Despite the significant risks, they remain steadfast in their commitment to human rights and equality, knowing that their efforts are making a difference.