COVID-19 lockdown and the Key Population
In the past, the only lockdown we would hear or see is when we watched a movie about a virus outbreak, which takes over the entire world. Global lockdowns, people dying in hospitals or set up health camps due to a fast spreading virus are usually depicted in movies – experiencing this in real life is surreal.
Since the lockdown in March 2020, many LGBTIQ and sex workers organizations have had a lot of difficulties in accessing health services like HIV testing, STI screening, ART and PrEP refills and commodities like condoms. Due to the suspension of public and private transportation, some have to walk long distances to the nearest health center.
The lockdown came as a result of COVID-19 pandemic when the first case of corona virus was reported to Uganda. The Ministry of Health announced guidelines on how the public can be able to protect themselves by avoiding crowded places, washing hands, social distancing and covering yourself with a face mask if you have a cough. Later the president of Uganda issued the presidential directives of suspending more than 5 people in a place, closing of schools, bars, non food shops, suspending of private and public transportation, curfew starting from 7pm to 6:30am and many others.
The lockdown also comes with further negative effects, which include closure of offices and long distance walks for those who still work. Also internet bundles charges have increased, activities which require more than 10 people are suspended hence delaying dialogues which empower unlearn, relearn and learn activities for the community members, reporting to their respective donors is in delay, gender based violence cases have increased: It was reported that 19 LGBT people were arrested and sent to prison. Sex workers have been violated by the police who have used excessive force to undress and beat them up and in extreme cases they have been thrown in jail.
The pandemic has forced female, male and transgender sex workers to stop operating at night since there is curfew. We’ve received reports of them having to struggle to feed their families. But we’ve also received positive cases as some LGBTIQ people and sex workers say they are using the lockdown period to reflect about their lives.
Voices out of the sex workers and LGBTIQ Community
“As a lawyer and an activist, the COVID-19 crisis has caught me by surprise, more so when I am working on two cases of arrests and detention of LGBT persons. The first days, I used the occasion to organize myself house, and read a few books to distract myself. But that eventually got boring as well. So lately I find myself working virtually with activists to create strategies for the aftermath of COVID-19. I continue to find comfort in reading books, reading articles online, engaging with activists as well as cooking a nice meal for the day.” Douglas Mawadri
“I am using the lockdown period to do more research on a number of things some of which are related to work, and my wellbeing as I discover more about myself. For instance, I have in the past few days been so active in revising my drawing and painting skills which I give less time due to the demanding work for human rights. Similarly, I am busy working out different ideas for my future goals. As we grow our bodies change and so I don’t want to cheat myself when I still have the energy to do better. Finally but not the least, I continue to keep in touch with the people that care so much about me including close friends both within and overseas, family and all of the good people that do wonders to change the world in a positive manner.” Steven Muleme, ED Visual Echoes for Human rights Advocacy (VEHRA)
“As an Artivist am using this time to relax while being creative and share create ideas with my community accessible via www.instagram.com/kakyoproject.” Trinah from Kakyo project
“As how am I managing the situation, this is a good question and again it’s a question that is tricky in a way that how am I ever able to handle the situation when I don’t have resources to help manage it. When I speak of resources I mean money to pay my bills, I mean food, I mean shelter, I mean community support, I mean access to health services if I cannot access all of this how can I be able to manage the situation so it puts me in a position where am just living” Juliana, transgender female sex worker and ED of Anna Foundation
“It’s okay to be scared, it’s OK to freak out during these trying moments, but it’s not OK to be quiet about it, please reach out to friends, family, therapists and partners open up. We are in this together and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. #together for Humanity” Sophie Carol, LBQ human rights defender and psychologist
“A lot has gone down during the COVID-19 period that would leave anyone dizzy, confused and heartbroken. From the arrests of 23 of our own community members at a place they called home, to detention of sex workers in Mbarara then a suicide of a refugee brother living in Kenya, how can an LGBTIQ person standstill to get through the storm without friends or family to hold them down?? During this time, I’ve prayed and found strength in loved ones in my life, both near and fear. The check-in phone calls, messages, meditation and holding on to faith that this dust will settle. Also staying away from false news has played a huge role. And the comfort in knowing that I am not alone struggling through this period with help of our very own LGBTIQ counselors and psychologists has kept me grounded and calm. Plus, I don’t forget to dance anytime […] or take my evening walks every day.” Diana Karungi, human rights defender
“I am trying to take time to do reflections on the past and current errors in my life but also as a single parent I spend some time with my son for joy and happiness.” Hajjati Abdul Jamal, Transgender woman and ED Rainbow Mirrors Uganda.
“It’s not easy if I may say because all sources of income were blocked due to the pandemic!! But my fellow leaders have been trying to help me here on little some basic needs. And still calling out on more support to help the rest of the community.” Ssamula Fahad, transgender woman