By Godfrey Oulkya Associated Press

Government says it ‘loves’ gays but wants to ‘rehabilitate’ them

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan gay rights activists held a rare public protest Tuesday, March 31 to call for equal rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the socially conservative east African country.

"We are law-abiding citizens," said lesbian activist Jacqueline Masha. "We deserve equal rights and protection under the law and constitution."

The rare public event follows several days of anti-gay protests last week in Kampala in which protesters accused gays of attempting to convert schoolchildren to homosexuality.

Tuesday’s gay rights event was sparsely attended, with less than 20 openly gay attendees. Of them, all but one were lesbians. Several of the lesbians wore traditional Ugandan men’s costumes.

Masha said she’s been at the receiving end of a litany of insults, including "pig," "inhuman" and "un-Ugandan."

Others who attended described harassment by religious leaders and ordinary Ugandans.

One attendee, Victor Mukasa, described being publicly stripped naked and taunted by a pastor and his congregation as they attempted to exorcise her.

"That did not stop me from being a lesbian," she said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and carries a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment. However, there are no known cases of gays or lesbians being convicted.

Ugandan officials staunchly resisted the activists’ call.

"Uganda is a Christian country," said Minister of State for Ethics Nsaba Buturo. "We don’t believe in homosexuality. We love the gays and homosexuals but we hate their activities. We want to help them to get rehabilitated."

In recent years, Ugandan church officials have distanced their church from the Anglican Communion after a U.S. church ordained a gay bishop.siteконтекстная реклама гугладворд