‘I was driven from Uganda for being a lesbian’

I fled Uganda with my children after my father-in-law tried to kill me. But in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, my sexuality still makes me a target, says Juliet Wabule.

The World Today Updated 26 September 2023 Published 2 June 2023 2 minute READ

Juliet Wabule

Asylum seeker

I have been living in Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana, Kenya, since 2019, after being driven from my village in Uganda by my father-in-law.

My husband died while he was working in the United Arab Emirates. We have three children – two boys and a little girl. Because he was working in a different country, I had space to be myself.

In Uganda, if they find out you are a lesbian, they stone you to death. I was so scared

One day my father-in-law caught me red-handed with my girlfriend, and my life changed forever. He called me the ‘devil’ and blamed me for his son’s death.

In Uganda, they don’t allow homosexuality. If they find out you are a lesbian they beat you and stone you to death. I was so scared. Because I have children, the village chairman allowed me to leave.

I was forced to sell my business, and they took my daughter away from me because they said I would teach her lesbianism. She was only three months old.

My father-in-law is a retired colonel in the Ugandan People’s Defence Force and is well connected. He had me followed and paid a friend of my late husband’s the equivalent of $800 to kill me and my sons, making it look like an accident by burning down the house in which we were staying.

My father-in-law paid a friend of my late husband the equivalent of $800 to kill me

But this friend warned me out of loyalty to my husband. He advised me to go as far away as possible, and he burnt the house down without us in it. I took a bus to Nairobi with my sons who were 10 and three at the time. We survived in Nairobi for a few months on donations. But when the money ran out, I ended up in Kakuma.

The moment we arrived, our suffering started. The camp is full of refugees from countries such as South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Somalia, who come here for different reasons. Most of those from Uganda, like us, are LGBTQ. When others realize we are Ugandan they know it means we are gay.

We have been beaten and tear-gassed in the camp. My children can’t go to school because they suffer abuse

We have been beaten and tear-gassed, and my friend’s daughter, who was only three days old when the attack happened, died five months later.

We were dumped in a separate block away from the others. But this just singled us out even more and we were attacked continuously. Our belongings were stolen; we were regularly beaten and some of us suffered from broken limbs and cracked heads.

Our children can’t go to school because they suffer abuse. We can’t buy anything in the shops because they say our money is evil. We are discriminated against at hospitals, at water points and in the market. Everywhere.

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We are tired and hopeless. We need to get out of here so we can be safe. We have been here for four years but we don’t even have refugee status yet. The Kenyan government says that there are too many people in the pipeline. 

Juliet Wabule, 33, was talking to Roxanne Escobales. To find out more about the plight of lesbians in Kakuma, visit Filia.