SA travel journo speaks on challenging homophobia on the continent

The June 11 ruling by the Botswana High Court which has struck down the country’s penal code that criminalised homosexuality has become not only a landmark victory for queer people of Botswana, but also for the African continent. 

Though it’s an occasion that inspires hope, other cases, such as the Kenyan court ruling which rejected a petition calling for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the country, make for uneasy planning for LGBT tourists travelling the continent.

Lerato Mogoathle is a South African journalist, who has embarked on adventures through 21 African countries, and has released a memoir entitled: Vagabond: Wandering Through Africa On Faith, discussing the challenges she endured during her trek.

One of these challenges was her encounter with homophobia in Uganda. In her book, Mogoathle reveals she had an encounter with the notorious Ugandan MP David Bahati on his bill to kill or imprison LGBTIQ+ Ugandans, and was almost arrested for attending a Pride event.

“Now, if there is one thing I have zero tolerance for, it’s denying people human rights; be they women, girls, children or LGBTIQ+ people. The only people whose humanity is lost on me are war-mongers, racists, rapists, murderers, bigots and others who dehumanise people,” Lerato said in an interview with
MambaOnline, promoting her book.

Lerato was speaking about watching a news broadcast that reiterated David Bahati’s proposed bill to kill or imprison LGBTIQ+ Ugandans. She said that the report angered her and she hopped onto a bus to Kampala (from Lusaka) to challenge Bahati.

“I interviewed Bahati in his office and things got heated pretty quickly on my part. I lost my cool and journalistic objectivity – I am a human before I am a profession. I was never scared, not even for a second,” she said in response to be asking whether she was ever afraid of being arrested. The South African media commented from the sidelines and newsrooms instead of being on-the-ground. Homophobia is not fought with just words, tweets and op-eds”.

Lerato has spent time behind bars in Uganda before for her activism. In 2012, a visit to Uganda during a Pride event saw the event being raided by police, where she was detained along with her friends.

“It was a four-day event with various activities like a film festival, fashion show, after-parties and so on. The main event was a parade at Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Several of us were arrested. Police alleged that we were staging and attending a gay wedding”.

“I will never stop travelling in Africa, and I will never boycott any country because of their laws,” she said.

“In South Africa, we have a constitution but an incredibly long list of hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people, yet I am living here instead of relocating to another continent”.
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