Helpful Information for LGBTQI+ Tourists considering Uganda
The question that is often asked: Are LGBTQI+ Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda?
Are LGBTQI+ Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda? The quick answer is yes, with the right LGBTQI+ sensitive Ugandan tour operator. Besides, no one AT Immigration will ask an LGBTQI+ Traveler about their sexual orientation upon arrival.
The Uganda Tourism Board has even reached out to the LGBTQI+ community. The Ministry of Tourism has stated that all guests are welcome to visit and be protected no matter what their sexual orientation is.
Despite such assurances, be aware that 97% of Ugandans are not pro-LGBTQI+. Most Africans are of the same mindset even when discriminatory laws have been removed in a few Sub-Saharan nations such as South Africa. The Supreme Court of Kenya turned down any changes in the present law in that country.
Speaking of Laws, in Uganda, homosexuality has been illegal since when the country was a British Protectorate. The Ugandan Penal Code Act of 1950, Section 145-147, written by the British Colonial Government, prohibits same-sex sexual acts “against the order of nature.” Such acts are considered felonies that can result in imprisonment of up to fourteen years. Actual imprisonment is rare. Arrests and harassment of LGBTQI+ are more common. They have not involved tourists since they are rarely the subjects of such investigations.
Uganda is at the same place that much of Europe and North America were at a few generations back. The laws on the books today are courtesy of the British and reflect UK’s rules in the not-so-distant past.
The so-called “Kill the Gays Bill of 2014” caught the attention of the world
The Anti-Gay Bill-an American Idea: Prominent Ugandan lawmakers, politicians, pastors were influenced by some American Evangelicals who wanted to accomplish in Uganda what they could not do in the USA, outlaw anything that was Gay. Though this is denied by many of those that were involved, the American experiment failed. Still, the reputation remains as being a homophobic country remains. At the same time, the anti-gay laws, relics of the British Colonial administration remain.’
It was not that long ago when Gays faced repressive laws in the UK, US, and other Western Countries. Gays can thank the British for the laws against homosexuality in the books today in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and other former British Colonies. Similar laws remain in Francophone African Countries.
When the private, so-called “Kill the Gays Bill” was introduced by David Bahati (educated in the US) in parliament, the Blogs, Western Media became active. Portraying the situation in Uganda and demanding freedom of expression and equal justice for Gays in Uganda. Ugandans, not wanting to legalize homosexuality, hit back with equal fervor.
Changes will come to Africa, not just cosmetic changes of laws. In South Africa, where lesbians are raped for corrective training, gay men were beaten, especially outside of larger towns. It took time, cultural adjustments, and legislation in the West. The same will happen in parts of the African world, maybe even Uganda.
President Museveni’s Take on the Gay Issue in an Interview with Arnie Weissman of the Travel Trade Magazine Travel Weekly:
Travel Weekly’s Magazine editor Arnie Weissman was in the country before the bill being signed and interviewed President about the bill. The interview was in conjunction with an article entitled “Consider Uganda.”
He said he believes there should be “no persecution, no discrimination, no killing” of gay people. Museveni noted that some prominent chiefs in the country’s history were gay. “They were known, but they were not persecuted,” he said. “They were not killed. They were not discriminated against.” And, the president pointedly noted, they did not talk about their homosexuality.
What happens in private, regardless of sexual orientation, is private, he said. Still, Western critics should respect that in Uganda, any public display of affection, gay or straight, would be offensive.
He is 70 years old, he said, and “I have never kissed my wife in public. Now, what are we to do about this? Will somebody come and say [I] must kiss in public? That’s not our culture. Because in our culture, anything to do with love is private, away from children, apart from other people. Bilateral, between two people. “
President Museveni did sign the Anti-Gay Bill into Law. Because of pressure on him and the upcoming election in 2016.
The Kill the Gays Bill of 2014 Effect on Tourism
The negative international attention that Uganda received caused LBGTQI+ tourists to take Uganda off their bucket list. It also made straight tourists reconsider whether to go to Uganda for their safari.
Uganda is seen through the prism of Idi Amin, Joseph Kony, and the Lord’s Resistance. Repressing Opposition Candidates and, most of all, the “Kill the Gays Bill.”
Uganda has been called the most Homophobic country on the Planet. Just say Uganda somewhere in the West. You will get all kinds of negative responses. Not just about the kill the gays’ bill but other issues. Uganda is seen through the prism of Idi Amin, Joseph Kony, and the Lord’s Resistance. Repressing Opposition Candidates and the “Kill the Gays Bill.”
When LGBTQI+ Tourists visit Uganda, they often exclaim that the country was different than they thought.
Visit Uganda on Safari? – the choice is yours to make?
LGBTQI+ Tourists have a choice. Here is the reality if you want safe and affordable Mountain Gorilla Trekking, then Uganda is the country of choice. Mountain Gorilla trekking can only be done in affordable Uganda, high-end Rwanda, and risky DR Congo.
Rwanda has no anti-LGBTQI+ laws. It is, however, expensive. Just the Gorilla Permit costs $1,500, whereas, in Uganda, it is $700. The reason that Uganda with two gorilla sanctuaries in the country is the Premier Primate destination in Africa. DR Congo is on $400, but there are guerrillas besides gorillas, which is not the case in Uganda.
Uganda is also the best Chimpanzee trekking destination with the best sighting record in East Africa. Additionally, there are Savannah Parks with wildlife and the River Nile with adrenaline-pumping white-water activities.
As you might expect, the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa remains very much underground. LGBTQI+ tourists are advised that likewise, discretion is vital for your well-being, even though foreigners are rarely the subject of police attention. That is not the case in all African safari destinations.
If you choose to come to Uganda for a Safari – Here are some recommendations.
No One at Immigration will ask if you are LGBTI+:
You will not be asked if you are gay when arriving at Entebbe or Kigali Airport. The arrivals card has no gay box to tick, and visa applications have no spot on them to fill out if you are gay.
Pay 50 USD for your Ugandan or Rwandan Visa, and it is “Welcome.’
Neither will you be asked if you are gay when booking a Safari with a Tour Operator such as ourselves.
You might have read all kinds of things. However, both Rwanda and Uganda are welcoming nations that make it easy for tourists to get their visa arrival.
The reality is this, Tourist Dollars reign, and everything is done to protect the Tourist, and that includes a Tourism Police force.
The only incident recorded where a gay Tourist had a problem was in Rwanda along Lake Kivu, where a lodge-keeper would not give a room to two people of the same sex. That has never happened to our clients in either country.
Your Personal Driver Guide:
The best way to see Uganda is with a Tour Guide. He will introduce you to the culture, styles, etiquette of both countries.
He is also the one who makes ways when there seems none. He is the one who makes things right at lodges, makes sure you that you have the right kind of food if you are a vegan or vegetarian, and teaches you to eat Mangoes, Jackfruit African style.
He is also the one who will introduce you to some of the genuinely Ugandan things such as Waragi, the local Gin with local history, Banana Beer, or Wine. Most of all, he looks out for your well-being and safety. People, no matter what their orientation, is concerned about staying safe in Uganda or Rwanda. There is no safer place to be than in the African Bush on Safari.
Are Safaris Safe for Gay and Lesbian Travelers:
Safaris are the safest place to be in Africa, and so it is in Uganda and Rwanda. Even if there was a major riot in Kigali or Kampala, the towns were ablaze. There would be no safer place to be for you than on a Safari.
Parks are like a safe place, places of security and safety for travelers. Our Tour Guide, the lodges, park rangers, tourist police, and others are all committed to your protection.
Tourism is vital to both Uganda and Rwanda and one of the top income earners in both countries. There is a strong commitment by both countries to protect tourists no matter gay or straight.
When it comes to LGBTQI+ issues outside of Kampala or Kigali, most people know little about it. Most Africans want a simple life, have enough food, school fees for kids, and an income that tourism brings.
LGBTQI+ Travelers on Safari are safe and secure. No LGBTQII+ Traveler with us has ever had any issues.
Hotels and Lodges:
Lodges and Hotels work out just fine for Gay Travelers. A suggestion you will find on various sites is to have twin beds. One lodge along Lake Kivu got a bit carried away and rented single rooms if two people of the same gender wanted a room. It did not even matter when they turned out to be relatives. The government convinced them to change their ways.
Many lodges, especially around and in parks, are foreign-owned with Western Owners, and they do not have a cultural bias toward gays.
When it comes to lodges, moderate and upmarket are best suited for privacy and comfort.
Let the tour operator know your bed arrangement at lodges and hotels so that they can plan for you. Most often, if two of the same gender book a safari, the tour operator assumes twin beds.
The best advice we can give is to be discreet. One would not suggest getting into a discussion with an African about the LGBT lifestyle unless. In many cases, one may not like the outcome.
No Public signs of Affection such as Kissing – it’s not done here no matter if you are gay or straight:
You will see men holding hands, a sign of friendship in Uganda or Rwanda, but not public kissing except those coming from former French or Belgian colonies.
Ugandans are quiet about their private lives to the point of excess. When someone dies, they found out that the deceased had three different wives and other children.
The reality is this. Most Ugandans struggle with daily life. Like much of the rest of Africa, 97% may not be pro-LGBT, but they are preoccupied with Life’s everyday problems of making money for school fees and doctor bills rather than worry about someone else’s sex life. A Ugandan saying goes like this “what happens in the house stays in the house.”
Culturally, public affection is frowned upon though it is changing in places like Kampala and Entebbe. President Museveni still has not kissed his wife or anyone else in Public.
Understanding African Hospitality:
An African Welcome is not just a verbal greeting. It is welcome that takes on the responsibility for your well-being. That is what we do for our clients when on Safari. The concept of African hospitality begins with acceptance. While under our roof on Safari, your well-being, safety, security is our focus.
Uganda is one of the friendliest countries in Africa. It also one of the most welcoming countries, with over 1 1/2 million refugees from neighboring countries. It is the most culturally diverse country on the planet. Over 40 languages are spoken here. English is spoken by many, and Uganda is considered the Best English-Speaking Country on the Continent. However, it might help to learn a bit of Uglish, which is Ugandan English.
The Ugandan Tourism Board has stated that LGBT Travelers are welcome in the Pearl of Africa. It is certainly not the easiest thing to convince someone that Uganda is safe for LGBT travelers on a Safari.
More and more accept the offer and come to Uganda to see the Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, the wildlife, the River Nile.
Our Take as a Tour Operator:
Are Gay and Lesbian Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda or Rwanda? If you are a gay traveler and want to maintain your safety in Uganda, please exercise a reasonable amount of discretion. Many Ugandans have many misconceptions about gay people, and it’s best not to call too much attention to yourself in a country like Uganda.
Homophobia is deeply ingrained in African culture. Africans are slow to recognize that homosexuality has been part of Africa, though most often on the fringes. This is something that President Museveni has stated on several occasions.
Our Recommendation to any tourist, no matter what the sexual orientation, is not to show affection in public. That is frowned upon, but at the same time, it is slowly changing.
“Although homosexual acts are technically illegal, there is currently no major push by local authorities or governments to enforce these laws.” Our Security advice to any Traveler on Safari with us “keep a low profile and blend in. Do not draw attention to yourself.”