You can beat me but I won’t shut up
‘We are humans with a right to social justice,’ says Pepe. But life for the LGBTI activist is difficult.
Arrests and violence
Uganda’s religious fundamentalism, sensation-hungry media, and tough anti-homosexual laws make it impossible for him to live in peace.
‘My work is dangerous. I have been an activist all my life and I have been arrested often. Some people truly hate me. I have learned to give in at arrests because it’s easier to keep quiet than somebody screaming ‘homosexual!’ or ‘transgender‘ and a mob attacking you.
That’s why for activists, with the abuse and violence we face every day, it’s important to have friends in high places. If you are in trouble you need someone on speed dial.
But even they can’t protect me from getting arrested and abused.
The media ‘outs’ me
‘My face appears in the newspaper quite frequently. The media points their finger at me and outs me as a homosexual. For them, it’s a way to intimidate me and many others. But it’s a double-edged sword. Yes, my face is all over the papers, but it reminds people that ‘here is a homosexual who won’t shut up’.
‘People are slowly starting to realise that they can’t pray the gays away – they are here and they are here to stay. The dangerous part is that stones are thrown, people attack you, and boda-boda drivers refuse to give you a ride and instead pounce on you.
Support from around the world
‘But the support we get from all around the world is amazing. It’s really powerful to get calls from so many different people who tell you ‘we’ve got you, you are not alone’. Which is great, because there aren’t many LGBTI activists in Uganda. And even the negative publicity shows the LGBTI community they aren’t alone. For me personally, that my biggest motivation. Sometimes I hit rock-bottom and I ask myself why I keep doing this work. But then somebody calls and tells you they are proud of this work. That’s why I can keep on going.
‘I am happy and grateful every morning when I wake up. The fact that I am still alive pushes me forward. And I am thankful that I know what my rights are. And now I want others to know, and stand up for their rights, too.’
How would feel if you had to fight for your rights every day? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Love Matters Africa and Love Matters Naija.