Former Makerere researcher Dr Stella Nyanzi has put her weight behind Richard Tushabe aka Swabullah Nabukeera who disguised as a woman and married an Imam in Kayunga district.
Nyanzi who reunited with some of her friends in the Ugandan LGBTIQ community on Wednesday attended a court hearing at Kayunga Chief Magistrate’s Court.
“My transgender daughters Keem Love Black and, Princess Marts Rihannah brought several sisters from the trans community. I am always energised in the company of people of the Third Gender,” Nyanzi said while pausing with her friends.
She said they spent the bulk of the day at Kayunga Chief Magistrate’s Court, attending a mind-boggling criminal case at the intersection of homosexuality, gender identity, religion and health.
Swabullah (aka Richard Tushabe), a transgender woman and her husband Mohammed Mutumba are both charged with “having carnal knowledge against the order of nature”.
The Kayunga Grade One Magistrate Allen Akello who is hearing the case last month remanded the couple to Ntenjeru prison.
“From prison to court, they were handcuffed together. How symbolic!” Nyanzi mused.
They were married in a colourful Muslim wedding by an oblivious Imam in the village, while Swabullah wore a beautiful bridal gown.
She effectively passed as a woman.
Later, when Swabullah was arrested for charges of theft, the police woman who searched her body was shocked to discover that the hijab-wearing suspect before her was actually a biological male.
Swabullah was transferred from the female cells to the congested male cells. Accusations of homosexuality and condemnation of ‘pretending to be what she is not’ started.
The couple, detained at Ntenjeru Prisons were variously humiliated in the local press and on social media.
Swabullah fell seriously ill during detention.
Although both were granted bail yesterday, Swabullah wasn’t released because she is also in remand detention for the charges of theft of a television set and clothes worth Shs2.3m, property of Eryazi Jimmy of Kyampisi Village in Kayunga Sub-county.
Nyanzi said the general lack of understanding of transgender issues in Uganda was sadly on display in the courtroom.
“Swabullah was repeatedly mis-gendered and addressed as a man. Court users continually referred to her as man.”
When they tried hard, they referred to her as ‘he-she’. She was kept in cells for men.
“Her confidential sexual health details were insensitively discussed in the public court. People mocked, jeered and insulted Swabullah,” Nyanzi pointed out.
“And so, it was great to provide support and understanding alongside several transgender sisters who came to court in solidarity with Swabullah.”
She added: “If anyone is interested in supporting Swabullah’s recovery, please contact Rihanna Martins who runs a support group for LGBTIQ people detained in Uganda’s prisons.”
Meanwhile, Mohammed Mutumba, the Imam of Kyampisi Masjid Noor Mosque in Kayunga District, was suspended from clerical work.
Released on bail
They both received free legal representation from Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum and were released on bail.
Stella Nyanzi’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid represented them.
Sheikh Mutumba presented his father, Hussein Nsereko and mother Sofia Nakaliro as sureties while Tumushabe presented his aunt, Veronica Kirungi and another relative Fatiya Nakibuuka to guarantee that that he reports back to court whenever needed.
They were ordered to pay Shs1 million each while the sureties were each bonded Shs5m not cash.