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Beaten but not broken: LGBTI Ugandans will march tomorrow after facing mass arrests

Beaten but not broken: LGBTI Ugandans will march tomorrow after facing mass arrests

Ugandans celebrate Pride in Kampala

LGBTI people were beaten, brutalized, arrested, sexually assaulted, trans women’s hair was forcibly cut and trans men were fondled at Uganda’s Pride fashion show last night (4 August).

But despite suffering one of the worst raids in recent memory, Ugandans are still planning on marching in a parade tomorrow.

The raid occurred on Thursday during the Mr and Miss Pride pageant, mainly for transgender participants, with several people in attendance in Kampala.

Police raided the event at around 11.30pm, with more than 20 armed policemen storming the venue and started arresting the people there.

One man broke two bones in his spine after jumping off the fourth floor of the building.

Pepe Julian Onziema, a trans man, an activist with Sexual Minorities Uganda and one of the organizers of the event, told Gay Star News he was grabbing a drink when he saw Frank Mugisha being questioned by police.

‘It happened really fast,’ he said. ‘They cuffed them and started walking them out… When I was trying to ask what was happening, an officer pushed my face and held one of his guns at me as I was cuffed as well.’

Kamugisha, a Kenyan who were there at the club, said it happened like a blur.

‘[Police] picked all Mr and Miss Pride contestants pulling off their hair plus undressing them to ascertain whether they were men or women, in all this some people were screaming and wailing. They were all beaten and told to keep quiet,’ he said.

Monalisa, a 22-year-old Ugandan trans woman and student, was one of the presenters at the show who was arrested and detained for eight hours. She said they were interrogated by officers.

She told Gay Star News: ‘Prison is the worst place you can imagine being at. They asked why I was trans and why I behave like a woman and yet my genitals are for a man. One had to touch my private parts to really prove whether I was male or female.

‘I felt degraded to a point of wanting to commit suicide.’

Pepe added to GSN that trans women had their hair forcibly cut, while trans men were fondled by officers.

While they were detained, a police officer pushed him and two others inside cells where they were stripped and searched.

‘We were forced to shower,’ he said. ‘One guy, a really big guy, kept hitting me. He kept on punching my face, my left ear. I’m hard of hearing today.

‘All I could be was angry. It was just anger. It was heartbreaking for us to be celebrating and just being ourselves and then for this to happen…I felt humiliated.’

Pepe, Frank and others were freed around 1am, while others like Monalisa were kept for a lot longer. Many have reported injuries, but no more than the man who fled by jumping off the fourth floor of the building.

‘Tomorrow there’s supposed to be a parade, and people still want to participate,’ Pepe said. ‘As much as it’s a blow, the community is in fear but are not paralyzed. Above that fear, there’s courage and there’s defiance.’

He continued: ‘To be treated as a criminal for just wanting to express myself or to be in a space of love, of community and then someone to make me a criminal of it.

‘It’s outrageous, it angers me, it breaks my heart. As a Ugandan in this day and age that we still continue to treat each other the way we do.’

Monalisa feels the same.

‘I’m not scared. They can’t silence me. I have a voice and a right. It makes me want to do more for my community and talk more about our issues,’ she added.

And in a way, Pepe says he feels ‘proud that it happened’.

‘You might wonder why, it means we doing something right in this community. People know we’re here, and they know we’re not going to be silent. As much it makes them uncomfortable, this will make them know we’re here more than ever.’