LGBTQ Rights in Uganda: Anthropological Analysis


In terms of homosexuality legislation in Uganda, Anthropology provides a number of vital perspectives other fields may not touch upon.  First, it allows the reader unique insight into the historical context of a situation.  This allows us to understand the past, present, and future of an issue—


Before colonialism, homosexuality was practiced in Africa without serious detriment to the individual or the community.   However, Ugandans seem to have a sense of “amnesia” as Kristen Cheney puts it.  They refuse to acknowledge the following The Langi society included males who lived as women and married men, the Iteso, Bahim, Banyoro, and Baganda recognized homosexuality.  In fact, it was fairly well-known that Kabaka Mwanga, a king of Baganda, was gay.

However, Ugandans of today seem to ignore this history.  This is mainly due to missionary influence upon the masses.  Anthropology allows us to examine this influence and the missionaries’ techniques of manipulation (the ability to redefine what Ugandan values and understanding of their own past were).  The history of homosexuality recorded before colonization appears to have been effectively “erased” by missionaries of the past, and continues to be suppressed by Evangelicals of the present.


Looking at this historical heterosexism through an anthropological lens, we can grasp two pertinent impacts it has had on Uganda.  First, the missionaries’ influence on the population allows us to gain further insight into the current development of anti-homosexuality legislation, namely, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by describing the basis for Ugandan prejudice.

Second, as Sylvia Tamale explains, “because homosexuals in Uganda do not feel a sense of belonging in relation to the dominant culture, they have had to reconstruct affirming identities for themselves.”  This manifested in a term—kuchu with which Ugandan homosexuals identify.  Out of the hatred in the community grew a unifying identity.

Without an anthropological lens, we would not fully understand the complexity of Ugandan prejudice and its effects on the LGBTQ community.


The main contribution I believe anthropology can make to Uganda that news and other sources do not is that of solutions.  Kristen Cheney had strong beliefs about what type of action would be effective and appropriate in Uganda.  These opinions were strongly rooted in her anthropological work and showed a deeper understanding of how aid efforts are received and executed.  She believes the only way to productively help other countries is by supporting organizations based locally in those places.  She proposes we make ourselves available, then wait until they let us know what they need.  This way, we will not assume to know what is best for a community in which we do not live.  Hopefully by keeping an anthropological outlook on the problem, foreign organizations can provide Ugandans with the resources necessary to ensure safety and equality for homosexuals.

We hope to see a time when these couples can live in their home country without fear of imprisonment or death.