逃出恐同烏干達 單親媽媽眾籌望與孩子團聚Ugandan LGBT activist escapes persecution and seeks to be reunited with sons

文:Stop Trafficking Of People (STOP)

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「我不能不離開我的國和家。警察就在我後面追趕。」烏干達同志運動參與者Jackie(化名)回憶起逃離警察追捕時的情景。她輾轉到香港申請庇護,在為自身安全喘息之時,她數算着離開兩名兒子的日子已快近兩年,現正急切於籌謀與他們團聚的計劃。

示威逃亡 單親母親忍痛遺下兒子
Jackie是在烏干達爭取同志權益婦女團體的其中一員。當地對性小眾平權運動打壓不斷。於2019年秋天一場示威後,她幾乎身陷囹圄。警察對Jackie所屬團體進行拘捕,她的多名戰友被抓,她雖然腿部受傷,還是成功逃脫,躲藏一段日子後,輾轉到達香港。

選擇香港,只因她曾在工幹期間來過這個地方,她甚至來不及想,來到香港做一位尋求庇護者是怎樣的光景。Jackie是一名單親媽媽,兼顧工作之餘,她獨力支持兩名年幼兒子的生活,可是在逃亡時根本無法把孩子帶在身邊。她在逃亡時一個晚上看望過孩子,便匆匆飛到香港,在香港等待申請庇護的時候,她沒有一天不在擔憂孩子之中渡過。由去年全球爆發新冠病毒流行病,到2021年1月烏干達大選期間的暴力浪潮,她每天肝腸寸斷記掛着骨肉。孩子的情況堪憂,兩個小男孩正由親戚輪流照顧,可是親友始終無法取代母親的照料和關懷,孩子在經常流徙的情況下無法專注學業,而小兒子只有七歲,更一直處於營養不良的邊緣。

烏干達對同志打壓不斷
烏干達是世界上其中一個對性小眾來說最危險的國家:根深柢固的恐同文化,政權對性小眾群體的騷擾,甚至暴力對待,無日無之。當地警察以威嚇侮辱性小眾行動者而臭名遠播,報章亦會在未經當事人同意下,將疑似性小眾人士的個人照片和資料曝光。2011年,烏干達一名著名的同志權益積極份子David Kato被謀殺。而同志權益領袖因「被出櫃」報道而失去工作亦是常見。

2014年,烏干達政府曾試圖立法以死刑懲署同性戀者,在國際壓力及當地公民社會的抵抗下,政府才把最高刑罰改為終身監禁。其他不合理條文仍然存在,不誠實使用電腦罪行就禁止網上傳播性小眾權益的內容,最高刑罰可至五年監禁。

今天一月大選前夕,烏干達街頭暴力殺害了超過一百人,總統穆塞韋尼怪罪於外國同志權益組織資助發動的示威行動,以此煽動國內恐同情緒。「有些人被外部勢力、同性戀者所利用,那些人不樂見一個穩定和獨立的烏干達。」穆塞韋尼在訪問中這樣說,是在為同志運動塗上污名,合理化恐同行為。

眾籌望與兒子團聚
Jackie因參與反歧視同志法的行動,而被警方追捕,被逼逃亡,她不單擔心自己,也擔心戰友的性命安危。「距警察拘捕已經超過一年,我至今仍然未有收到戰友們一個報平安的訊息,不知道他們是生是死。」

她知道,留下自己的性命,孩子才有希望,這個信念支撐着Jackie每天活着。這位兩子之母正陷入兩難當中:如果回到烏干達和兒子們團聚,她有可能跟她的朋友一樣消失,如果要把孩子接過來她現時的所在地,她卻要面對財政難題。她希望能夠與兒子重聚,同時至少可以勉強生存,在烏干達抑或香港,都要越過重重障礙。現時Jackie幸得慈善團體及義務律師支持,協助處理兩名兒子到達香港時申請庇護的法律程序,但她還需要支付兒子及陪同親友從烏干達來香港的機票。她正在進行眾籌,你可以透過捐款,協助她離開這個困境:crowdfunding appeal

Ugandan LGBT activist escapes persecution and seeks to be reunited with sons

written by:Stop Trafficking Of People (STOP)

“I had to run,” recalls Jackie (not her real name), an LGBT activist now seeking asylum in Hong Kong, “The police were right behind me.”

Jackie was part of a group of women who campaigned for LGBT rights in Uganda. In a protest in the autumn of 2019, she was nearly arrested when the police cracked down. The police caught several of the women in her group. Jackie ran, hurt her leg but managed to escape. She went into hiding and eventually fled to Hong Kong, the first place she thought of since she had been to Hong Kong on business trips.

Uganda is one of the most dangerous countries for LGBT people, with such an entrenched, homophobic culture that harassment and violent attacks against them occur on a daily basis.(note1) The police are known to intimidate and humiliate LGBT people at police stations. Newspaper “outings” are common, publishing the photos and personal information of alleged LGBTs. One gay rights leader was fired from his job after newspapers published photos of him. In 2011, David Kato, Uganda’s first prominent LGBT activist, was murdered. Uganda has harsh laws against LGBT and in 2014, the Ugandan government proposed a bill that would have made lesbian and gay male sexual orientation punishable by the death penalty. Faced with international pressure and resistance from civil society organizations, the maximum punishment was changed to life imprisonment. Other repressive laws remain, such as the Computer Misuse Act which bans the sharing of LGBT advocacy online, punishable by 5 years in prison.(note 2)

This year, amidst pre-election violence on the streets that killed over a hundred people, Ugandan President Museveni recently fanned homophobia with comments blaming protests on groups funded by foreign LGBT rights organisations. “Some of these groups are being used by outsiders … homosexuals … who don’t like the stability of Uganda and the independence of Uganda,” he said in an interview.(note 3)

Jackie took part in campaigns to change discriminatory laws undermining LGBT rights and was forced to flee police persecution. She fears for the lives of her friends who were caught by police. “It has been more than a year since the police arrested them,” she says, “And there hasn’t been a single message from them. I don’t know whether they are still alive.”Jackie is a single mother of two young sons, whom it was impossible to take with her while on the run from police. She managed to visit them under the cover of night before she fled to Hong Kong in September 2019. While waiting in Hong Kong for her asylum claim to be processed, she has endured increasing agony worrying about her sons back home, as Uganda was hit first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by a wave of violence surrounding the general election. Her sons’ situation back in the country is now desperate, staying with relatives who struggle to play the irreplaceable role of their mother.

She is afraid, with ample reason, that if she returns to Uganda, she would disappear like her friends did. If her sons are to be reunited with their mother, the only option remaining is to get her sons to Hong Kong. Significant challenges remain. Currently, Jackie communicates regularly with NGOs and pro bono lawyers to clear the legal hurdles of bringing her sons to Hong Kong and she is also raising funds for flight tickets for her sons and one adult who would accompany them on the flight through a crowdfunding appeal.

note1:
Kasha Nabagesera and Sarah Berning, “As the support network grows, so too will Uganda’s LGBT movement,” Deutsche Welle, May 13, 2016, https://www.dw.com/en/as-the-support-network-grows-so-too-will-ugandas-lgbt-movement/a-19256027

note2:
Sam Opio and Isabella Bauer, “LGBT people still tend to hide,” D+C Development and Cooperation, November 18, 2020, https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/though-things-have-improved-lgbt-people-still-face-serious-harassment-uganda.

note3:
Nita Bhalla, “Anti-gay rhetoric ramps up fear among LGBT+ Ugandans ahead of polls,” Reuters, January 7, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uganda-lgbt-election-idUSKBN29B22W.

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