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Friday, 8 July 2011

In Uganda, trans woman desperately seeks police protection

Source: Behind The Mask

By Kikonyogo Kivumbi, Arcus Correspondent

A Ugandan transsexual woman, Ms Beyonce has made a desperate call to Uganda Police for protection from public molestation, including physical beatings for allegedly “looking abnormal.” Ms Beyonce, who was born Benjamin Tushabe, in an interview with Behind the Mask on July 3, in Kampala said she has been molested five times in less than two months.
“I have consulted the doctors at Mulago (the national referral hospital in Kampala) to under go a sex change. But they all look at me like I am weird. Yet I have never felt like I am a man,” Ms Beyonce said.
She said on more than two occasions, she had beaten unconscious at Kisementi, an upscale Kampala recreation centre, by bouncers who said she “looked abnormal.”

Ms Florence, one of Ms Beyonce’s friends said the trans woman had been beaten into a coma at Club Iguana for not dressing like a man.
“They dragged her from the toilets upstairs and threw her out in the cold. Then the bouncer shouted at her to go home and put on men’s shoes, yet she is not a man.”
Ms Florence, is currently sheltering Ms Beyonce after her landlord recently evicted her from her rental house in Mutungo, a Kampala suburb for “not looking like a man.” Ms Florence said Ms Beyonce was later treated at Kadic Hospital for bruises and chest pain complaints.

There is total ignorance about transgender and intersex people in Uganda. Many people are informed by anti-gay sentiments fuelled by evangelical Christian pastors, calling for the killing of gays and trans people and through laws including the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 that was introduced in Ugandan parliament last year. The bill expired with the expiry of the 8th Parliament after the February 2011 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but homophobes and transphobes are pushing for it to be reintroduced for debate.

Mr Niki Mawanda, a trans people’s activist said that he was saddened by the attacks. Mawanda, a trans man who leads an organization for trans people’s rights and recognition in Uganda, the Transgender, Intersex and Transsexuals Ug (T.I.Ts Uganda) said there is an urgent need for public education on trans peoples rights in Uganda.

He however said it was not surprising that Ms. Beyonce had been attacked given the increasing levels of mob justice in Uganda.

“People have less confidence in the Judiciary. So mobs choose to punish some people to death based on any suspicion,” Mr Mawanda said.
He noted that Ms Beyonce, a self confessed sex worker, was more predisposed to attacks because of who she is. Mawanda called for an interlinking with human rights advocacy on trans women and sex work.
“Her being a sex worker attracts more attention, even from fellow sex workers. Some people choose to beat her for thinking she is a homosexual, even if she may not be,” Mr. Mawanda said.
He added that T.I.Ts Uganda is doing its best to educate the public on trans people’s rights, and called on other human rights organization, including LGBTI groups to streamline trans people’s education within their programmes.

Mr. Mawanda said it is difficult for trans people to get equal access at health facilities in Uganda, especially those funded by the government. “They look at you with insulting eyes. They ask you humiliating questions,” Mr. Mawanda added.

At an April meeting of transsexual women in Eastern and Southern Africa organized by SIPD Uganda and Gender Dynamix, a South African transsexual people’s rights organisation in Kampala in April 2011, a number of transsexual people spoke of the challenges they faced in society and urged the creation of safe spaces for trans people.

Some trans people noted that it was difficult for them to obtain travel documents like passports. Others said they are deported when they travel within the Great Lakes region countries when immigration officers say they look weird. One of the participants said that landlords often do not want to rent rooms to trans people in Uganda.

Meanwhile, Idi Senkumbi, the spokesman for Kampala metropolitan police said of Ms Beyonce’s attackers, “Such suspects can be charged with either assault or indecent assault, as per the Penal Code,”

Senkumbi said he would pursue the case filed by Ms Beyonce at Kira Road Police Station in Kampala. He however encouraged trans people to report threats and any form of attack against them.

In a report released June 28, in Kampala on the Human Rights situation in the country by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the commission noted of the “ grave” abuse of rights of Ugandan women based on their sexuality and sexual orientation.

The report urged Uganda government to take deliberate steps on public education about sexual orientation to scale back hate crimes and violence on alleged or actual homosexuals.

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