Monday, October 10, 2011


Uganda’s first openly gay bar, Sappho Islands closed down last Sunday after just over a year in operation.

Jacqueline Kasha the Ugandan LGBTI activist who was instrumental in setting up Sappho Islands told behind the Mask in Kampala that she is determined to open another one soon.

The bar was reportedly closed down because the landlady complained about the appearance of revellers who frequented the venue. The seemingly spooked landlady was quoted as saying, “The bar brings people who look strange.”

The closure of the bar continues to highlight Uganda’s homophobic tendencies. Many people are denied rental accommodation because of their suspected or actual sexual orientation.

Kasha, the leader of human rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda, said on Wednesday in Kampala that the closure of Sappho Island arising from complaints by the landlady would not stop gays from having a social life in Uganda and promised a new bar would be opened.

Kasha said “The closure of Sappho doesn’t mean it’s the end of us having a social space. The way I managed to open Sappho in the first place is the way I will open it up elsewhere.”

She said she was not giving up on her dream of creating a social space for the LGBTI community.

A defiant Kasha said, “More than ever I am very determined. The next one will be bigger and even better. It’s one way of intimidating us but we shall overcome.”

Sappho Island was situated in Ntinda, a middle class Kampala neighbourhood. When BTM visited the place on Wednesday afternoon, there were sign posts advertising for new tenants to come and occupy the premises.

Once a lively and cordial welcoming hide out with immense ambience, Sappho now rests in ruins. The grass thatched hut has been pulled down to make way for new tenants. The entrance gate is closed.

But the Sappho Island rainbow coloured signpost continued to mark the entrance.

Until last Sunday the bar was one of the best known hang out spots for Uganda’s gay community and provided a focal point for the community. It was here for example murdered LGBTI activist David Kato’s funeral party set out from. According to a BBC report filed last year it was “where gay people feel safe, where they can be themselves.”

The closure of Sappho Island also highlights the fear among some Ugandans created by the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 in which every person is meant to report a suspected gay person within 24 hours.

Although the bill has stalled in Uganda’s Parliament, many Ugandans who are not keenly following the development of the bill, think the proposed bill is already law and enhances their earlier homophobic tendencies

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