It was a full house on the evening of Friday 16th August 2019 when Men of the Night Uganda (MONU) launched their self-titled documentary Men of the Night Documentary 2019. The groundbreaking project was funded by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA).
The 30-minute docudrama highlights the daily realities of male sex workers in Uganda as they’re confronted by the present repressive laws, their plight as they carry on their trade and hopes for a future that they can only dream of for now.
After the death of two of their peers in 2013, three male sex workers started a support group in response to the needs of male sex workers living with HIV. "It was something that was envisioned to be small and community based but more people kept on joining us," Devine narrated. Initially, as fruitless efforts were being made to bring light to a dark situation, there was an increase of stigma and discrimination towards male sex workers already living with HIV and the legality of the profession did not make the situation any better. With growing membership came more challenges besides HIV that needed to be addressed leading to the foundation of MONU as an NGO that could extend services beyond just the small group.
Devine also explained that there was a need to give a voice to male sex workers. "We needed to come out and tell our real life stories as male sex workers within Uganda, to share our problems, how we gain from our work and what we want to see in the future,” he elaborated.
"This is a very historical event in the sex work industry as we launch the very first male sex work documentary since we are barely documented yet we need the world to know that we exist,” Cameroon Kakande the MONU Executive Director told attendees. He also introduced presented Ayesiga Elvis (PD at Ice Breakers Uganda) and Kasaija Jonathan the co-founders of MONU which currently boasts of 180 members.
The docudrama that left many impressed and excited was launched by Dr. Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of SMUG. In his congratulatory speech, Dr. Mugisha noted that the documentary is a wonderful milestone and emphasized the importance of visibility for all movements in realizing the objectives of advocacy. "Every movement needs a face, whatever it is. If there is no face, people will keep asking where they are,” he advised. Dr. Frank further appreciated MONU's great work in taking the lead towards male sex work organizing in Uganda.
Each attendee received a copy of the documentary and it was also revealed that the DVDs would be distributed, free of charge, within the 12 districts of MONU’s operation.