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Uganda Has Emerged As One Of The Most Homophobic Countries, But Are We Any Better?

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By Sukanya Sarkar:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and identity. What does identity mean? The literal meaning of identity is the state of being a specified person. In this category of identity of individuals, one’s sex comes into being, whether one is male or female. But do we recognize the identity of the LGBTQIA section of the society? No! What is all the more alarming is that some religious groups make the existence of these people difficult. As for example in Uganda, conservative Christian groups influenced President Yoweri Museveni to pass an anti-gay law. The law toughens penalties against gays and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison. The bill also proposes life in prison for anyone who tries to reach out to gays and lesbians.


In justifying his act of declaring the anti-gay law he had said, “there’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values of one group on our society. Then our disappointment is now exacerbated because we are sorry to see that you live the way you live.” When Rev. DR. Kapya Kaoma, Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, was asked that how did conservative Christian groups influence the declaration of such a kind of law, his response was astounding. He was of the view that various groups were involved in this. It had started three years back when fundamentalist Scott Lively, with Abiding Truth Ministry, in conjunction with the defunct Exodus International Board Member, had gone to Uganda and spoke about how the international gay agenda was set to take over the world but they were trying to focus on Uganda because it was the heart of Africa. Some researchers say that pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church had also gone to Uganda and was involved in Church Politics of Anglican community where he supported the Ugandan churches for opposing LGBTQIA rights. The contradiction lies in the fact that, according to an African anthropologist who studied African culture and wrote in 1970, the people of Central African Republic respected same sex marriage in the same way that they respected heterosexual marriages. So, this was another African society that did accept same sex marriage before the arrival of Christianity in Africa. The Christian groups, with their homophobic agenda, have been successful in bringing about such a drastic change in the society.


While talking about Ugandan anti-gay right, one should not forget India and its criminalizing section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was enacted by the British colonial regime to criminalize ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. It was rooted in the Judeo-Christian religious morality that abhorred non-procreative sex. This section was declared as unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court on 2nd July, 2009. The Supreme Court had overruled this decision on 11th December 2013, with the court holding that amending or repealing this section of the IPC was now the responsibility of the Indian Parliament and not the Judiciary. The Supreme Court hence dismissed a Review Petition filed by the Central Government, Naz Foundation and several others, against its verdict on Section 377. So, till then the Parliament had not made any effort to repeal this draconian section of the IPC thereby considering homosexuals as criminals.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual , transgender etc. have not been some recent modern sexuality choices. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohli recently spoke at the United Nations Young Mind Changers Conclave, where he said that kamasutra, which was written in between 400BC and 200BC, spoke about homosexual intercourse. Additionally, “hijras” have been part of the society for a very long period of time. Then, how are their rights not secured? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India has ratified, grants every human being the right to marriage and to start a family. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution also guarantees Right to Equality. Does this mean that the LGBTQIA are not human beings? Do they not fall into the category of respected human beings with their rights being secured?

Homophobia and Global Gay-Rights – A Contradiction

The negative feeling towards the LGBTQIA leads to homophobia. Antipathy, contempt, prejudice, hatred based on irrational fear and religious beliefs lead to such a phobia. United Nations, in its research, has found that apart from discrimination, the LGBT are constantly faced with brutal violence, kidnapping and murder. 1990 onwards, out of the 76 countries that had criminalized same sex relationships, only 40 countries have legalized them. Even though there are a number of gay rights movements globally, yet the level of discrimination faced by the community is nothing less. Few of the global gay rights movements that should be mentioned are – International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGYLO), Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and many others.

Sexual Minority Uganda is a non-governmental organization in Uganda concerned with LGBT rights and youth issues. But the contradiction that lies is that the organization, even while acting as an umbrella to protect the rights of the community, could not stop the anti-gay legislation from coming into being. Same applies in the case of India. The Asian Lesbian Network, which was formed in march 1986, was intended to create awareness regarding lesbian rights, even this organization equally failed in the case of section 377.

So, the question that arises is – Are the LGBTQIA rights’ organisations weak or the feeling of homophobia so strong that it cannot prevent any kind of legislation against the LGBTQIA community? No matter what the actual reason is, our main focus should be on protecting their rights and respecting their identity.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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