Update on the lesbian activist attacked in Uganda

Human rights groups offering support and police now investigating

The lesbian activist attacked in Uganda last week is coming back from the brink, thanks in part to support from LGBT Canadians.

Andrew Waiswa, the executive director of the Gender Equality and Health Organization (GEHO), says Jeniffer Ikanza’s conditon is improving. She is now out of hospital and is continuing to recover at home.

“We are so grateful to everybody who joined forces with GEHO to create pressure and draw attention to Jeniffer’s case,” Waiswa says.

Ikanza was nearly beaten to death Aug 18 in Jinja, in eastern Uganda, as she investigated a report from a woman in a neighbouring town. The woman told her she feared that her husband would kill her if he found out she’s bisexual, Waiswa says.

On her way there, Ikanza was attacked. Just before reaching her destination, a gang of women swarmed her and started kicking and throwing rocks, before leaving her for dead.

She suffered multiple organ failure due to internal bleeding and was in critical condition.

In response to Xtra’s coverage, Waiswa says, several local and international human rights organizations contacted GEHO to show their solidarity and offer support, including representatives from the American and Canadian embassies in Nairobi; Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda; and Clare Byarugaba, co-coordinator at the Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, based in Kampala.

“We have been able to send a team of lawyers and leaders to Jinja today for further investigations on the incident and also to check in on Jeniffer,” Byarugaba tells Xtra. “We hope that the investigations we are doing now will give us more information and help us make more informed decisions.”

Donations have also been coming in from LGBT Canadians, enough to cover much of the cost of Ikanza’s treatment. “She is still recovering, but she is now receiving good treatment,” Waiswa says.

“I am really tired of seeing queer people die because we’re just asking to be equal,” says Toronto resident Zach Harper, who donated more than $1,000. “And I guess I just wanted her to know she has friends here, that we care, and that we want to help any way we can.”

Waiswa says local police have also launched an investigation. “Several statements are being recorded, and the crime scene has been visited. We are working with the police so closely to see that no stone is left unturned,” he says.

GEHO is a group in Jinja that operates a network of safe houses for LGBT people fleeing homophobic families and police arrest. Ikanza is the coordinator of the health and care program for lesbians at GEHO. Waiswa says she has been a powerful voice for local queer women.


Xtra will continue to follow this story.

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