Uganda: The challenges facing sexual minorities at colleges and varsities

Mboode Willy

Mboode Willy is the co-coordinator of Forum for Minority Rights (FMR), an LGBTI/sex workers Rights group that is involved with tertiary Institutions in Uganda.

Kikonyogo Kivumbi, Behind the Mask’s, Kampala correspondent spoke to Mboode about his work and the challenges sexual minorities face at college and university. Below are excerpts:

Q: What is Forum for Minority Rights?

A: Forum for minority Rights is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, as well as sex workers’ organisation that was formed to address challenges amongst LGBTI community, especially among tertiary institutions in Uganda.

It has over 50 members and an extra 20 associate members.

FMR has membership from both public and private universities including: Makerere University, Kampala University and Makerere University Business School, Nakawa. We also incorporate foreign students [in Uganda] since we are in the same environment.

We undertake advocacy for the health rights of sexual minorities, capacity building, research and documenting, lobbying as well as care and support for each other.

Q: What challenges do sexual minorities face within the tertiary institutions set up?

A: We are stigmatised and sometimes isolated. In general activities like sports for instance, transgender and intersex persons are discriminated against because both sexes doubt them.

Those who are out and have been recognised by the university administration are at times threatened with suspension. We have two cases [of suspension] that have happened in our group.

We cannot clearly address our sexual orientation because they consider it as illegal. In the university hostels, sexual minorities are always rejected [when they try] to share [accommodation] with others if one is recognised [as being from a sexual minority]. It is hard to express our difficulties to university counsellors since they don’t understand us properly. So, we need a dialogue.

Q: There are often accusations of recruitment into gay life made by homophobes in schools. How do you handle this?

A: We explain to them that [what we are doing] is not recruiting but uniting for a common cause. We tell them that those who feel are facing similar challenges, unite and make strong voices to be heard of. It is not recruiting as they allege.

Q: Where do you see FMR in future?

A: We need to ensure [that we] involve everyone, such that in absence of the senior activist, the juniors gain experience to deliver in future. I see a future for sexual minorities who are members of the professions, able to challenge the homophobic legal and policy regime that entrench discrimination and violence against LGBTI in Uganda.

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