Are Gay and Lesbian Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda or Rwanda?

Posted by on November 26, 2018

The  Reality: Are Gay and Lesbian Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda or Rwanda?

The Safest Place to be for Gay Travelers in Uganda or Rwanda is on a Safari with a Tour Operator

Are Gay and Lesbian Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda or Rwanda? 

Africa has come on the radar for many Gay and Lesbian Travelers. At the same time, many African countries have anti-gay legislation on the books, often going back to Colonial Times and Rule. Gays have been and are part of the African Culture, even President Museveni has stated so,  Christianity and Islamic Beliefs along with Colonial Rules and Laws that have strongly influenced African Minds and Culture  regarding Gays and that  is part of the present mindset in most of Africa including in Uganda and to a lesser degree in Rwanda.

The internet comes with a lot of misinformation written by people from all over the world who have never set foot in Africa, much less Rwanda or Uganda.  This page is for Gay and Lesbian Travelers who would like to go on a gorilla or chimpanzee trek, see the wildlife and the stunning scenery found in both Uganda and Rwanda.

The present Culture of Africa and Gays persists but before anything else, the Average Ugandan – Rwandan  ranks among the friendliest and most welcoming People in Africa.

In Rwanda, you are greeted with “Murakaza neza,” meaning Welcome with Blessings and in Uganda, you will hear over and over “You’re most Welcome.”  That is how we feel about any visitor to Uganda or Rwanda.

Rwanda – has kept itself out of the news regarding gay and lesbian travelers, but culturally is similar to the rest of Africa. However it has begun to market itself as an exclusive Gorilla Trekking Destination with Permit prices now 1500 USD, 900 USD more than in Uganda. In 2018 Ellen DeGeneres, along with Portia de Rossi met with President Paul Kagame during her visit to Rwanda.  She loved the Country, the People, and the Mountain Gorillas. 

What most LGBT Travelers do not realize is that under the Radar there are more LGBT Community members in Jail in Tanzania than other East African countries. Tanzania in 2018 picked up where Uganda left off

Uganda has an image problem fueled by Idi Amin’s past rule, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance, Police  Brutality with Opposition party Candidates and overhanging it all – the Anti-Gay Legislation (thrown out by the Supreme Court).

Uganda has been called the most Homophobic country on the Planet.  Just say Uganda somewhere in the West and you will get all kinds of negative responses, many of them based on blogs, false news reports, wrongful Social Media Postings regarding Gay Issues.

Uganda is probably the last place  LGBT holidaymakers would want to visit, but tourism bosses in the east African nation are nevertheless trying to do the seemingly impossible, one of them was a meeting by representatives of Ugandan Tourist Community with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association in the USA.  The meeting raised eyebrows both in the West and in Uganda.

The question that might be raised by such attempts to promote Uganda to the Gay and Lesbian Community is – “Is there one standard for tourists and another for Ugandans?”

Uganda is not alone about laws on Gays – Tanzania is quite harsh on gays using laws to the fullest extent, arresting  Gays and locking people up, and that includes foreign sympathizers.

Kenya might be a great safari destination, but time after time, gays are arrested there and mobbed (not the case in Uganda).  Uganda has laws that go back to the British, a time when gays were persecuted in the UK.  Those laws are rarely enforced.

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 that are on the books today in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and other former British Colonies.

When the private, so-called “Kill the Gays Bill” was introduced by David Bahati (educated in the US) in parliament, the Blogs, Western Media went on red alert wanting freedom of expression and equal justice for Gays in Uganda.   Changes will come, and not just cosmetic changes of laws on books as 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.

In Uganda, the Anti-Gays Bill was conveniently declared unconstitutional. It made things easier on everyone including the President who signed it due to the election that was going on even though previously promised that he would not.

In 2018 there have been a few anti-gay stirrings reported in the local press.  One main issue is the denial for a center that includes medical care.

President Museveni’s Take on the Gay Issue in an Interview with Arnie Weissman of the Travel Trade Magazine Travel Weekly:

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, but 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, away from other people. Bilateral, between two people. “

November 16- 2017 Daily Monitor Newspaper:  Police have organized a meeting in which they will sensitize its police officers on how to protect rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
According to the police message authorized by Mr. James Kusemererwa from police headquarters and copied to the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, 40 police officers from Kampala Metropolitan Police Area are supposed to converge at Tick Hotel in Kawempe Division on Thursday.
“There will be a sensitization workshop on minorities rights (LGBT) on Thursday 16 November 2017 at Tick Hotel Kawempe (Division). “

The above will not be reported worldwide as negative news has from Uganda – but it should be of interest to Gay Travelers.  This has not taken place in Kenya nor Tanzania.

Staying Safe and Secure: Are Gay and Lesbian Tourists safe on a Safari in Uganda or Rwanda?

 No One at Immigration will ask if you are LGBT:

You will not be asked if you are gay when arriving in 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 applying for a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda.

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 on 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 and a lodge keeper would not give a room to two of the same-sex.  That has not happened to our clients.

 Y our Personal Askari (Guard) – Driver Guide:

The best way to see Rwanda and Uganda is a Tour Guide, he will introduce you to the culture, the ways, 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 truly Ugandan things such Waragi, the local Gin with a local history, Banana Beer or Wine.  Most of all he looks out for your well-being and safety.  People, no matter what their orientation are concerned about staying safe in Uganda or Rwanda, there is no safer place to be than in the African Bush on Safari.

The right driver guide makes the difference.

 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 safety.

Tourism is important 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 LGBT issues, outside of Kampala or Kigali most people know little, most Africans want a simple life, have enough food, school fees for kids and an income.

 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, the moderate and upmarket ones will meet most  anyone’s needs and come with en-suite bath.

 No Public signs of Affection such as Kissing – its not done here no matter if you are gay or straight:

You will see men holding hands, that is a sign of friendship in Uganda or Rwanda, but not public kissing except those coming from former French or Belgian Colonies.

Ugandans and Rwandans are quiet about their private lives to the point of excess.  When someone dies they fiund out that the deceased had 3 different wives and other children.

The Reality is this, most Ugandans struggle with daily life, 97% may not be pro-gay, but they have enough problems coming up with school fees, 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..

 Our Take

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 a lot of misconceptions about gay people and it’s probably best not to call too much attention to yourself in a country like Uganda.

We have Gay Travelers travel with us on Safaris, in most cases, they never told us that they were gay, they simply enjoyed Uganda and Rwanda on Safari that included, Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking, Wildlife drives or hikes, mountain climbing or more.

Ugandans and Rwandans will welcome you into their respective country and be glad that you came.  You, in turn, will find Uganda and Rwanda simply Hospitable..

At the end of 2018, the most dangerous place for Gay Travelers according to the US State Department is Tanzania – not only for gays, but for international reporters, NGO workers as new draconian measures are rolled ouit.  Donors have canceled Aid  and the EU recalled its Ambassador for Consultation

Staying Safe in Uganda:

Staying Safe in Rwanda