Facing discrimination, Uganda's gay community is finding a voice, and Rachel Adams is there to tell their story
The world is changing fast. A half century removed from colonialism and a quarter century after the reign of Idi Amin, Uganda is facing all the challenges that come along with an underdeveloped economy and a legacy of political turmoil and sweeping tragedy. More recently though, one story caught the attention of the global community, which shed a troubling light on the tension within Uganda, between old and new ideas. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first proposed in 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati, represents a substantial threat to Uganda’s LGBT community on the whole, proposing harsh criminalization of homosexual behavior of any kind. In some versions of the bill, offences have carried with them proposed punishments such as life imprisonment and even the death penalty. It would be hard to imagine a more high-tension backdrop for ground level photojournalism than the one UK-born, Cairo-based photographer Rachel Adams has chosen to explore.
There’s something genuinely heroic about the kind of DIY journalism Adams does. With something as simple as a camera and a computer, Rachel’s been able to offer a glimpse into a world, and a set of issues of that might otherwise remain impenetrable. Of course, from afar, it’s the kind of situation that’s easy to moralize about in broad, sweeping terms. But for Rachel, watching from home hardly seemed like something she could do.
And so last year, Rachel found herself in Kampala, Uganda for a small, but momentous event in the history of the LGBT community there: their first pride parade. Through words and images, Rachel told the story of that day–all the way up to its unfortunate conclusion, which included several arrests by local authorities–and soon after attracted the attention of media outlets worldwide. Already, Rachel had captured a powerful moment, a snapshot of a community pushed to the fringes of their society, struggling to be heard, and to find a space in which to celebrate a fundamental piece of their own identities. Since then, Rachel has spent time in Uganda, documenting the issue from all sides, from an intimate portrait series of transgender performers in Kampala, to an in-person interview with Bahati, the man behind the infamous bill, published by Vice late last year. That her own safety and well-being has often been in jeopardy throughout the course of this project isn’t all that surprising, but it should give you an idea of her commitment to great journalism. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Rachel about her experiences, in Uganda and beyond, and about the stories she’s been able to tell so poignantly.