On Monday in Jinja, Uganda, 350 people rallied against homosexuality. A day before, 100 gathered in Kampala for a pro-gay conference. Yet in Ottawa, where legal rights for gays are a given, only seven people came out to protest Uganda’s proposed anti-gay legislation.
The small group of seven stood outside the Ugandan Embassy on Feb 17, holding placards and posters. It was small in comparison to the anti-gay march in Uganda, but the group had fire and passion.
“People are too busy fighting for gay marriage that they don’t give a shit about this,” says Victoria Francis, one of the protestors. “People have forgotten, I guess, how privileged they are to live in Canada or North America, whereas other people are dying for their rights.”
The protest, organized by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO), was promoted on Facebook and more than 40 people pledged to attend. ACO spread the word through their networks, and according to Frédérique Chabot, ACO’s women’s outreach coordinator, they received a positive response — response that was not followed through with action.
“It’s too big and too far away,” says Chabot. “Even though a lot of people seem to be against it and are very ashamed that is happening somewhere in the world — it doesn’t seem real or immediate or happening.”
Kathleen Cummings, executive director of ACO, agrees.
“It’s so surrealistic to think that the reality is that you could die just for your sexuality, you could go to prison,” says Cummings. “There’s people who don’t believe [homosexuality is] wrong, but they don’t want to believe this is real and they don’t want the reality that is laughing in their face.”
In the short 30 minutes they stood outside the embassy, the group encountered a less-than-friendly attitude. They were forced to move by a Ugandan Embassy vehicle backing into them. When the protestors left their signs at the embassy, they were shouted at by someone who appeared to be a Canadian employee coming out of the building. Xtra’s photographer was threatened with being sued for getting his camera out.
Xtra called the embassy but no one was available for comment.
In one small and calm protest, the group managed to unsettle the embassy and makes themselves known — imagine what a few more activists could have done.