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Call me Kuchu: the battle against homophobia in Uganda

Call Me KuchuA year ago, I interviewed a young native teacher from a First Nations reserve in Canada, near the city of Montreal. He was openly gay and hoped that time and education would change the way his tight-knit and judgemental community viewed LGBT people. It was a lonely journey for him, but he had no intention of leaving the reserve. “This here is my country. This is my home,” he said. “Whenever you do something, you do it for your community.”

I remembered this teacher’s words as I watched Call me Kuchu, the documentary by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worral. This poignant documentary records the struggles of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community—known as Kuchu—in the city of Kampala, Uganda. It also documents the life and death of activist David Kato, the country’s first openly gay man who pushed for the protection and human rights of LGBT Ugandans and died as a result of this.

In 2009, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. Kato and his friends work relentlessly to defeat the legislation while being persecuted in their personal lives. Among Kato’s entourage are Naome Ruzindana, a mother of two and founder of the Coalition for African Lesbians, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo who braves the rejection of his own church to support LGBT Ugandans.

We also hear from the people who condemn them, starting with the editor of a tabloid newspaper who laughingly outs gay people in his paper (casually suggesting they be hanged) and opts for slanderous front page titles such as “Homo generals to blame for terror attacks in Kampala”. He believes in “ignor[ing] the right of privacy in the interest of the public” and plans to start raiding houses with cameras.

Then come the politicians who speak publicly against what they perceive as “recruiting youth into homosexuality”, referring to Kuchus as cockroaches (a term used to incite violence during the Rwandan genocide). We also see how many religious figures seem to be influenced by American evangelical Christians who condemn homosexuality during their visits to Uganda.

Kato was unexpectedly and violently murdered a year into the filming of the documentary. Call me Kuchu pays a moving tribute to his battle by recording the aftermath of his death and the strong impact it had on the international community.

In 2013, the possibility of the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” being passed is still looming in Uganda. The film directors have partnered with Amnesty International UK to ensure that Call me Kuchu can help draw attention and action towards the efforts to protect the rights of LGBT people around the globe. As many activists repeat in this powerful film, “A Luta Continua”: the struggle continues.

Call me Kuchu will be released on DVD and download from 25 February.

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Joëlle is a freelance journalist from Montreal, Canada, who moved to the UK to experience the vibrant media hub of London. Since she has come to the conclusion that she can’t possibly visit every corner of the planet or meet every interesting person herself, she is grateful that others share her passion for documenting the world.

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