Sweden and other allies have a duty to act and not just talk – you need to practice what you preach , says Bob Bwana
By Melanie Nathan, May 04, 2014.
LGBT activists are very upset about the denial by Sweden of a visa to a Ugandan human rights defender. It is being reported from Sweden that the “Swedish migration authorities insulates the Ugandan LGBT movement, by refusing to grant an activist a visa to attend a workshop in Sweden,” for fear the attendee would not return to his home country.
The second round of the Rainbow Leaders, RFSL leadership training for LGBTI activists from different parts of the world commenced in Sweden on April 28th.
One of the selected participants to this second round was the Ugandan LGBT activist Bob Bwana . But he did not make it to Stockholm because of his visa denial. The reason for the denial boils down to the fact that if he were not presumed “gay seeking asylum” for wanting to attend an international LGBT event, coupled with the fact of the known persecution of gays in Uganda heightened by the newly enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, he may otherwise have been granted such a visa. But the persecution within his own country against gays, has ironically served this denial to attend a critical workshop where his attendance would serve the very community that is being persecuted.
Due to the newly enacted anti- homosexuality law in Uganda, the authorities have now assessed the risk of defection as being too substantial to give a visa to an Ugandan LGBTI activist. This is typical of immigration laws – where the governments purporting to give asylum do all possible to thwart those seeking it, arriving on their shores. To my way of thinking this serves ONLY to add to the persecution against gays and makes countries such as Sweden complicit in the persecution. But this story is not about asylum, it is about the fear of the Swedish authorities that the attendee may request asylum and they seem to weigh their fear of that above the applicant’s need to attend a workshop that could help his community back home.
This is the first time a Ugandan activist invitee has been refused a visa to Sweden to attend an RFSL event , and it is also the first time RFSL has invited a Ugandan since the anti-homosexuality law took effect in March this year. Hence it is clear that the very act that is institutionalizing the discrimination and persecution, through its 14 to life in prison terms, is serving to hamper the LGBTI effort to participate in a leadership conference where the Ugandan LGBT community could be served. This is tantamount to the Swedish authorities joining Uganda in its discriminatory treatment of Uganda’s LGBT community.
A Swedish article (translated) Karin Lenke is one of the project leaders for Rainbow Leaders :-
This decision jeopardizes the entire Swedish cooperation with Uganda on LGBT issues. How will we implement our Sida-funded projects, to support our colleagues in Uganda, if they do not get to come here? Now is really a time when activists from Uganda are in great need of what education could provide; improving skills to handle difficult situations, international networks, and so on.
Bwana Bob is very disappointed :-
I never thought it was possible to get this kind of decision from a country that claims to fight for human rights. It is also extremely painful to get this kind of decision right now, when the need for outside support for our movement is greatest. This denial is like closing the door in the face of a friend just when his friend needs your help the most. I feel punished by Sweden because I am who I am . Sweden and other allies have a duty to act and not just talk – you need to practice what you preach , says Bob Bwana .