Revisiting Homophobia in Times of Solidarity, Identity and Visibility in Uganda

Prince Karakire, GUMA, Researcher and Director, Social Economic Research and Development, Uganda


There is an apparent deepening in anxieties of the increasing rapid social change in Uganda, with the escalation of homophobia, if not more so. Homosexuals in their quest for solidarity and visibility have increasingly become victims of homophobic violence. In this study, I draw upon critical studies in geography, urban sociology, feminism, anthropology, Queer theories, and identity politics, to poignantly axamine manifestations of homophobia in the context of changing social structures. For this purpose, I adopt a multi-sited ethnography and hybrid genre of discourse analysis.


There is an apparent deepening of anxiety in relation to the subject of homosexuality in Uganda. Despite anthropological narratives of African culture’s zero tolerance to homophobia, (see, Mutua, 2011; Epprecht, 2004; Murray, 1998, etc), itsintensificationandsolidification has not only had dire consequences for the homosexual community, it is a matter of curiosity. This curious trend, it ought to be mentioned, has emerged at the same time that as gay visibility are increasingly beginning to emerge and obscure the traditional same-sex behaviours, where homosexuals are continuously stepping away from the typically African gender-stratified systems that have long characterized same-sex relations between men. Consequently, gay men in their quest to sexually construct themselves have increasingly become affected by society’s aggressive compulsion to denigrate gay visibility.

And yet, a bulk of the body of work on homosexuality and homophobia persistently revolves around traditional explanations for contemporary homophobia. A few other studies either tend to disclose homophobia toward the gay communities (see, for instance, Kaoma, 2009), or merely explicate the difficulties gay men face while attempting to live the lives they feel they ought to be living. For instance, some studies on homophobia in Uganda mostly adopt a reductionist perspective often reducing homophobia to nothing more than a product oftraditional attitudes and values (Chi-Chi and Kabwe, 2008; Epprecht, 2001), the American Christian Right (Kaoma 2009), and the colonial entrenchment of homophobic laws (Sanders, 2009; Epprecht, 2004). And yet such narratives are not only inappropriate as they serve to conflate the agency of the African leaders and ordinary people who engage in homophobia and homophobic practices, they also reinforce streotypical ideas, and fail to offer consistent answers for the apparent growth of political and public expedience and intensification of homophobic practices.

Besides, contemporary homophobia is simply too complex to be reduced to a few ‘historical’ underlying factors such as culture, religion, or a simple binary opposition between the religious right and advocates of feminism and/or secularism. Consequently, homophobic effects of homosexual visibility and solidarity ought to be explored. It is the aim of this study therefore to constitute the conflicts and dynamics between homophobia andwesternnotionsof (homo)sexuality within global contexts. In the sections that follow, I draw upon critical studies in geography, urban sociology, feminism, anthropology, queer theories, and identity politics, to poignantly axamine manifestations of homophobia in the context of changing social structures. The subsequent section explores literature to revisiting homophobia in modern times…Access Full Text of the Article

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