Lois Chingandu asks who will protect our LGBTQ+ children?

Lois Chingandu speaks from the heart as a mother and activist against the rising hostility and attacks on LGBTQ+ rights.

A blog by Lois Chingandu, Interim Executive Director of Frontline AIDS. Originally published on 17 May 2023 on Devex.

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Yet only recently, Ugandan legislators passed the draconian anti-homosexuality bill, which they justified by saying that this is to protect our children and our country. This is a bill that includes the death penalty for some same-sex acts and 20-year sentences for promoting homosexuality.

It appears that the legislators’ definition of “our children” excludes those young people who are gay.

As a mother of a gay son, I find this insulting and upsetting. When I remember my labour pains that brought my child into the world, my stomach ties into a painful knot. Nothing was different about the pregnancy and labour of my three children. I love all my children the same.

No legislation can change how I feel, nor will I accept that one of my three children is of less value because of sexual orientation. I am furious when I think about the fact that, according to this bill, one of my children has no right to exist and can be hunted down and killed like an animal. The world should know and do better than this.

I have watched with dismay how members of the LGBTQ+ community are facing increasing discrimination, not only here in Africa but in some European countries, in parts of the United States, and in Russia. As the head of Frontline AIDS, an international organisation working to build a future free from AIDS for everyone everywhere, I know only too well the risks of discriminating against and criminalising certain populations.

Around the world, there are 67 countries that still criminalise same-sex relations — and nearly half of these are in Africa. In addition, 92 countries criminalise HIV nondisclosure, exposure, and transmission through either specific or general laws. We know that these laws undermine efforts to prevent new HIV infections and to ensure that people living with HIV can access testing and treatment to keep them healthy.

These laws also breach human rights, not only the right to health but the rights to equality and nondiscrimination as well as to freedom of expression and association. Frontline AIDS knows from its experiences of supporting partners around the world that LGBTQ+ repression is part of a wider systemic assault on civil freedoms. Homophobia, political repression, and police brutality is often planned in order to silence dissent, scapegoat marginalised groups, and consolidate power.

If the state — our duty-bearers — opens the floodgates to hatred, who then is going to protect our LGBTQ+ children? Like mother hens we must open our wings and gather our chicks under them and fight to keep them safe.

On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, every mother and every concerned world citizen must speak out against LGBTQ+ repression. All of our children deserve to live with dignity and enjoy all of their human rights, free from discrimination and violence.