RIGHTS 4 HER is an initiative that was formed in 2016 to advocate and champion access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for closeted Lesbian, Bisexual, Intersex and Queer persons both in urban and rural areas. It is a safe space where closeted LBQI persons speak up against prejudice and tackle what it really means to stay in the closet. Cathy (not real names) who heads this initiative spoke to Kuchu Times about the mission of RIGHTS 4 HER and what they hope to achieve in the forth coming years.
Introduce to our readers and viewers what Rights 4 Her is all about.
Rights 4 Her is an initiative that is focusing on closeted LBQI persons in Uganda; we want to create awareness about the needs of this category of people in the gender and sexual minority movement. This is not to say the mainstream LGBTI movement is not helping us but many people in the closet fear to freely associate themselves with the movement/community. We realized that there was a need to come up with a support group that was about us and prioritised our needs.
We work closely with already established and pioneer LGBTI organisations for linkages and guidance on how to reach out to more closeted LBQI persons in Uganda. I do believe there are more closeted persons, perhaps even more than those that are already out.
What prompted you to start this initiative?
The first thing that inspired me was my own story- I have been closeted for years, I have been in marriage, I have kids and I know what its really like to live like this. I vowed to help other women who are facing the same challenges I have been through. In addition to this, I have encountered a number of some similar cases - I have seen real life scenarios where someone’s sexuality becomes a problem to them and the people around them even before they come out- I could not sit by and do nothing.
What challenges have you faced thus far?
The biggest barrier is trust or lack thereof; people in the closet are always fearful that perhaps we have wrong intentions and will out them at certain point. I have tried to reach out to many people but it is very difficult to garner their trust- a person confirms an appointment with you and later cancels it out because they are scared. I however understand their position and I will be patient.
Is your work guided by any baseline surveys? For example have you tried to conduct some grass root studies that can help you find out more on actual statistics of closeted LBQI women and their challenges?
We have plans to conduct surveys throughout the country but right now or membership is focusing on development ideas. We have plans of such fact finding missions but already through our contact persons in different parts of the country like Mubende and Mbale, the surveys have started - eventually, we will cover the entire country.
How many members do you have so far?
We have eighteen (18) members.
What are the social challenges that these closeted LBQI women are battling in their day to day lives?
Most of these people are depressed, they are battling many unanswered questions on a daily basis and sadly most lack adequate information.There is also a myth that woman to woman sex doesn’t spread diseases and yet the health workers are registering an increase in cases like hepatitis, HIV, TB and other infections in the community. A great deal of awareness still needs to be done in order to sensitize this group whose information access is quite limited.
Where do you see Rights 4 Her in the next ten years?
In the next ten years, we shall have impacted many lives. More-so, I see us reaching out to a wide number of closeted LBQI women without limitations especially within Kampala and the surrounding areas although we are hopeful that eventually we will cover the whole country.