Nsasi recalls their reaction when the law was passed. “It was at first hard to believe — is this really happening?” the Ugandan DJ and producer says. “It has never been easy being queer in Uganda, but this was intense. I felt stripped. It changed everything for me.” Now the ANTI-MASS member shares temporary accommodation in a cramped London flat with the Ugandan DJ collective’s founder, Tayo, otherwise known as Authentically Plastic — and Nsasi is unsure of what the future holds for them. “While I was in Uganda, I was trying really hard to get away. But once I got away it was like, what now?”
In March, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill into law that calls for life in prison for those caught engaging in same-sex relations, and potentially the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”. It was quickly decried by human rights organisations as one of the harshest anti-LGBTQ statutes in the world. Its effect on the Ugandan queer community has been devastating. In the lead-up to the law’s passage, LGBTQ shelters and organisations were raided or shut down, and more than 100 instances of personal attacks were reported. Now, queer, trans, and gender-non-conforming Ugandans, feeling hunted, are fleeing into migrant camps and unstable living situations beyond the borders, or hunkering down as refugees in their own country.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 is one more in a series of recent blows against LGBTQ rights, in a global backlash that has seen repressive laws and crackdowns from China and Russia to Italy and the United States. The Ugandan law has been directly traced to the influence of US religious evangelists in the country, and fundamentalism is fuelling the rising hysteria against queer people worldwide. A 2020 report by openDemocracy found that one particular US group spent over $20 million in the country alone between 2008-18, pushing its conservative, anti-LGBTQ agenda. As outspoken queer Ugandan activist and artist Papa De told journalists earlier this year, “Queer people don’t owe anyone anything, but we also deserve to live just like everyone else. You can’t strip all our rights. This is a world emergency.”