In Uganda, like in many countries, LGBTI people are often not accepted and their human rights are not respected. The negativity has been more entrenched in Uganda, with state sanctioned discrimination of LGBTI people enshrined in the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act (or the “Kill the Gays” bill, as it’s sometimes referred to, which was first introduced in 2009). While the formal law was nullified on a technicality, the reality is still not positive for the LGBTI community in Uganda. Same-sex relationships are outlawed in the country. The negative stereotypes and stigmatization of the community by health services makes it difficult for LGBTI people to easily access health care services especially in areas of HIV support, treatment and care. Police arrests without charge and harassment are rampant, forcing many to flee to other countries for asylum. There are constant fears that such a bill might resurface as we come closer to the next general elections in 2021 since it has always been used as a political weapon.
“When you support SPREC in any way, you save a life
and build a future for a fellow human being made in
the image of God.”– Bishop Christopher Senyonjo
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo founded St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre (SPREC) in 2000 after he met a young, gay man who told him the pain and suffering that he was going through. This challenged Bishop Senyonjo to open up a program for LGBTI counselling and support. Since then SPREC has been the main organisation addressing religious advocacy on LGBTI issues in Uganda. The organisation also championed the introduction of Men who have Sex with Men/Women who have Sex with Women (MSM/WSW) health care networks in the western, eastern, northern and central parts of Uganda. With a small team of staff and volunteers, SPREC has done tremendous work towards the inclusion of LGBTI people. SPREC has been recognised around the world for its work. Bishop Senyonjo (now Patron of SPREC) was awarded the “Global Citizen” award from the Clinton Global Initiative for “outstanding individuals who exemplify global citizenship through their vision and leadership”, and he also received a Doctor of Law Degree (Hons.) from the University of Leeds in England. Such recognition and support have encouraged the SPREC team to work even harder despite the hostile and challenging environment.
IAM has been a trusted partner on this journey. With support from IAM, SPREC has engaged priests and trained community peer educators on effective dialogue tools that have led to lessened tensions, especially in places of worship. We are happy that we are now moving towards LGBTI awareness even if acceptance is still another difficult task to accomplish. As human rights and LGBTI defenders, SPREC feels that this is the right time to work on the pending issues especially around health and inclusion when the ground is still fertile.
Andrew Talemwa began working as the Program Manager for SPREC in 2010.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree of Business Administration from Makerere University Business School Kampala-Uganda. Andrew is motivated by his belief that all human beings are made equally in the image of God. It’s from this conviction that he steers SPREC’s involvement in human rights activities and services, especially to the Inadequately Served Populations (ISPs).