Ugandan gay rights activist says her own mother threatened to hand her into police over anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Clare Byarugaba, a Ugandan human rights officer, has spoken up on her experiences as a lesbian since the passage of recent anti-gay legislation, including an account of where her own mother threatened to turn her into the police.

The advocacy officer at the Constitutional Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law delivered her speech on Friday at Los Angeles’s first Women in the World luncheon.

She gave a harrowing account of how her life and the lives of other gay Ugandans have changed since President Yoweri Museveni decided to sign the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

She said: “As a lesbian living in Uganda, it has been very difficult. My mom said, ‘I’m going to hand you into police.’ What that means is corrective rape. That I can’t see my family anymore.

“I have received so many death threats. And now I’m facing seven years to life imprisonment simply because of the work I’m doing—and because of my sexual orientation.”

She also spoke about how she was outed earlier this year by a Ugandan tabloid, which also recently published a “top 200” list of gay people.

“Coming out was supposed to be my journey,” she said. “Unfortunately the media did it for me when I was not ready.”

She added she has seen friends lose their jobs and get assaulted by the police.

“A transgender friend, a mob attacked her and undressed her in public. I know people who have tried to commit suicide. People call me on a daily basis and say, ‘Give me five reasons why I shouldn’t kill myself.’”

Last year, Ms Byarugaba said the Constitutional Coalition would consider a support group for Ugandan children and parents.”The only question is if the parents would be willing to come on board [because] there is still a lot of stigma even against them”, she said.