Stella Nyanzi

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Stella Nyanzi
Born (1974-06-16) 16 June 1974 (age 45)
ResidenceKampala, Uganda
Other namesNnalongo Owenene, Nnalongo (Mother of twins)[1]
Alma materMakerere University
(Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Literature)
University College London
(Masters in Science, Medical Anthropology)
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
(PhD in Social anthropology)
OccupationScholar, Anthropologist, Human rights activist
Years active1997— present
Home townMasaka

Stella Nyanzi (born 16 June 1974) is a Ugandan medical anthropologist, feminist, queer rights activist, and scholar of sexuality, family planning, and public health. She was arrested in 2017 for insulting the Ugandan president.


Stella Nyanzi received her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Literature at Makerere University where she studied from 1993 to 1996.[3]

She received her Master of Science in Medical Anthropology at University College London, where she studied from 1999 to 2000.[3]

She received her PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she studied social anthropology, sexuality, and youth and health policy from 2003 to 2008.[3]

She has conducted research on youth sexuality in Uganda, and also in The Gambia in 2005.[4]


Stella Nyanzi began her career in 1997 as a Social Science Research Associate at the Medical Research Council (UK) Programme in Uganda ,where she worked until September 2002.[3]

She then received a new position working as Local Anthropologist at the Medical Research Council Laboratories, The Gambia, where she worked for one year. She left that position to pursue her PhD in London.[3]

In 2009, Stella Nyanzi began at Makerere University as a Researcher at the Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project, as a member of the Faculty of Law, where she worked until December 2013. She then worked as a Research Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research until 2016.[3] While there, she was asked to lecture in the new PhD programme, called the Mamdani PHD Project, but declined. Her office was closed and, in an example of the West African feminist cultural practice of what the scholar Naminata Diabate has called "naked agency," made a nude protest against her boss.[5][6]

After her arrest in 2017, she was suspended from Makerere University. She appealed the decision with Makerere University's appeal tribunal, which directed that she be reinstated, promoted to the level of a research fellow with immediate effect, and paid back wages.[7] The university refused to abide by its tribunal's decision. So, she filed a lawsuit against the university requesting reinstatement and back wages.[8][9] In response, in December 2018, the university dismissed her, along with 45 other academics, arguing that her contract expired.[10]

Stella Nyanzi has also done consultation work for various social research organizations outside of Uganda and The Gambia.[3]


Stella Nyanzi is a well-cited scholar in her fields, with 54 articles and 1,432 citations by the end of 2018.[11][12] Among her most cited articles are those on Ugandan youth's negotiations of sexual relationships,[13] attitudes towards HIV testing among pregnant Ugandan women,[14] Ugandan women's control over sexual encounters,[15] Ugandan men's attitudes towards contraceptive use,[16] and the sexual behavior of many groups.[17][18][19] She is also one of the first scholars to publish research on African homosexuality.[20][21][22]


Stella Nyanzi practices what scholars have called "radical rudeness," which is a traditional Ugandan strategy of calling the powerful to account through public insult.[23][24] It was developed during the colonial era, as "a rude, publicly celebrated strategy of insults, scandal mongering, disruption, and disorderliness that broke conventions of colonial friendship, partnership, and mutual benefit."[25]

She has campaigned for the rights of Ugandan women, youth, and LGBTQIA+ people.[26]

On 6 March 2017, Stella Nyanzi launched the Pads4girlsUg Project, due to her concerns about girls missing school because they could not afford menstrual products. She collected thousands of re-usable pads and distributed them to school girls and also offered lectures to school children about menstrual health.[27][28]


In March 2017, Stella Nyanzi referred to the President Museveni as "a pair of buttocks."[29]

On 7 April 2017, Stella Nyanzi was arrested and detained by police at Kiira Police Station on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication.[30]

On 10 April 2017, she was thereafter produced in court, where she was charged with the misuse of a computer, cyber harassment, and abusing the president under section 24, and 25 of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011.[31] She was then remanded to Luzira Prison.

On 11 April 2017, doctors from Butabika Hospital were asked to carry out a psychiatric assessment examination to determine whether she was insane, as the government prosecutor was alleging. However, she resisted the examination and requested that her personal doctor and at least one family member should be present if they want to carry out a medical test on her.[32]

On 10 May 2017, she was released on a non cash 10 million Ugandan shillings (US$2924) bail.[33][34]

In October 2018, she was remanded to prison.[35] She did not request bail because she believed she was safer in jail and because she wanted to continue her education work with the women in prison.[36][37]

In December 2018, her lawyer attacked the charges as unlawful.[38]

In January 2019, she asked that her court date be delayed as she was ill and had suffered a miscarriage in prison.[7]

Reputation and reception[edit]

The international press has called her "one of Africa's most prominent gender rights activists,"[23] "a leading scholar in the emerging field of African queer studies,"[24] and a leader in the fight against "repressive anti-queer laws" and for "freedom of speech."[24] Her scholarship has provided "insight into the effects of patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia in Uganda, The Gambia, and Tanzania."[24] Some consider her arrest as having more to do with her status as a gay ally than other factors.[37]

An international outcry followed Stella Nyanzi's arrest, with human rights groups condemning the act as a violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression. Amnesty International called for Uganda to drop the "absurd charges" against her.[39] Pen International, the writer's organization, also condemned her arrest.[40] Human Rights Watch condemned her arrest as "an indicator that those who express critical views of the Ugandan government, especially the first family, can face its wrath."[41]

International news agencies have reported on the reasons for her arrest as political. NPR reported that her arrest was for giving hope "that the powerless can take on the powerful."[42] The Washington Post reported that her arrest was for being an "outspoken anti-Museveni activist."[43] Al Jezeera English reported that her arrest was due to Museveni's plans to rule for life and his intolerance of critics.[41] The Canadian Globe and Mail reported that her arrest was "at the heart of it all it [about] her imaginative use of language and her fierce defiance of the perceived limits for Ugandan women."[44] The Guardian reported that her "attack on her government’s refusal to fund sanitary wear for girls led to a successful crowdfunding campaign, and prison."[44]

In Uganda, she has a large number of supporters, with the largest social media following of any Ugandan.[45] Many collected food for her in prison.[46] Ugandan scholars have praised her as standing up against "our tormentors."[47] Her lawyer Isaac Kimaze Semakadde was named "most outstanding public interest litigation lawyer in Uganda" by the Uganda Law Society, in part for his work on this case.[48]

In Uganda, "strong cultural taboos against talking openly and graphically about sex and sexuality" exist and "homosexuality is illegal and sex education is banned in schools." However, Nyanzi speaks "openly - and colourfully - about sex, genitalia and politics. For this, she is adored by many of her fellow citizens but viewed with distaste by some of Uganda's more conservative elements."[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Profile: Who is Dr. Stella Nyanzi?". Matooke Republic. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Activist who called Ugandan president a 'pair of buttocks ' gets bail". News24. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g PhD, Stella NyanziMakerere University · Makerere Institute of Social Research23 09 ·. "Stella Nyanzi | PhD | Makerere University, Kampala | Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR)". ResearchGate. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Who is Stella Nyanzi? Biography, CV, background, marriage, career and war against Museveni". Blizz Uganda. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ "The Dr Stella Nyanzi you did not know…". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Why leaders tremble when women strip". The Star, Kenya. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Stella Nyanzi says she suffered a miscarriage in jail". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Big win for Stella Nyanzi against Makerere". Daily Nation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Court sets date for Nyanzi case against Makerere". Daily Nation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Makerere University sacks Stella Nyanzi". Daily Nation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Google Scholar". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Stella Nyanzi - Google Scholar Citations". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  13. ^ Nyanzi, S.; Pool, R.; Kinsman, J. (2001). "The negotiation of sexual relationships among school pupils in south-western Uganda". AIDS Care. 13 (1): 83–98. doi:10.1080/09540120020018206. PMID 11177467.
  14. ^ Pool, R.; Nyanzi, S.; Whitworth, J. A. G. (2001). "Attitudes to voluntary counselling and testing for HIV among pregnant women in rural south-west Uganda". AIDS Care. 13 (5): 605–615. doi:10.1080/09540120120063232. PMID 11571007.
  15. ^ Green, Gill; Pool, Robert; Harrison, Susan; Hart, Graham J.; Wilkinson, Joanie; Nyanzi, Stella; Whitworth, JamesA.G (1 February 2001). "Female control of sexuality: illusion or reality? Use of vaginal products in south west Uganda". Social Science & Medicine. 52 (4): 585–598. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00162-3. ISSN 0277-9536.
  16. ^ Pool, Robert; Hart, Graham; Green, Gillian; Harrison, Susan; Nyanzi, Stella; Whitworth, Jimmy (2000). "Men's attitudes to condoms and female controlled means of protection against HIV and STDs in south-western Uganda". Culture, Health & Sexuality. 2 (2): 197–211. doi:10.1080/136910500300804. PMID 12295882.
  17. ^ Nyanzi, Stella; Nyanzi, Barbara; Kalina, Bessie; Pool, Robert (2004). "Mobility, sexual networks and exchange amongbodabodamenin southwest Uganda". Culture, Health & Sexuality. 6 (3): 239–254. doi:10.1080/13691050310001658208. PMID 21972876.
  18. ^ Nyanzi, Barbara; Nyanzi, Stella; Wolff, Brent; Whitworth, James (2005). "Money, men and markets: Economic and sexual empowerment of market women in southwestern Uganda". Culture, Health & Sexuality. 7: 13–26. doi:10.1080/13691050410001731099.
  19. ^ Nyanzi, Stella; Rosenberg‐Jallow, Ousman; Bah, Ousman; Nyanzi, Susan (2005). "Bumsters, big black organs and old white gold: Embodied racial myths in sexual relationships of Gambian beach boys". Culture, Health & Sexuality. 7 (6): 557–569. doi:10.1080/13691050500245687.
  20. ^ Nyanzi, Stella (19 July 2013). "Politicizing the 'Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah': Examining the Christian Rightists' War Against Homosexuality in Uganda". Rochester, NY. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ Nyanzi, Stella (25 October 2014). "Queering Queer Africa," in Reclaiming Afrikan: Queer Perspectives on Sexual and Gender Indentities by Zethu Matabeni. Modjaji Books. ISBN 9781920590499.
  22. ^ Nyanzi, Stella (2013). "Dismantling reified African culture through localised homosexualities in Uganda". Culture, Health & Sexuality. 15 (8): 952–967. doi:10.1080/13691058.2013.798684. PMID 23767462.
  23. ^ a b c "Stella Nyanzi: Challenging power through "radical rudeness"". IFEX. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d Thomas, Kylie. "Stella Nyanzi: The formidable feminist foe Museveni has failed to silence". The M&G Online. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  25. ^ Summers, Carol. "Radical Rudeness: Ugandan Social Critiques in the 1940s." Journal of Social History, vol. 39, no. 3, 2006, pp. 741–770. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  26. ^ Thomas, Kylie. "Stella Nyanzi: the formidable feminist foe Museveni has failed to silence". The Conversation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Fury over arrest of academic who called Uganda's president a pair of buttocks". The Guardian.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "PEN International - Uganda must release academic Stella Nyanzi and drop all charges against her". PEN International. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Nyanzi charged of cyber harassment, subjected to medical examination". The Insider. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  31. ^ "Stella Nyanzi to stay longer in remand". Daily Nation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Who is Stella Nyanzi? Biography, CV, background, marriage, career and war against Museveni". Ug Blizz. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  33. ^ "Uganda: Dr Stella Nyanzi Released on Bail". All Africa. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Dr Stella Nyanzi released on bail". Daily Monitor.
  35. ^ BATTE, BAKER. "I feel safer in prison – Stella Nyanzi". The Observer - Uganda. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  36. ^ URN. "Nyanzi rejects bail, sent back to Luzira". The Observer - Uganda. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  37. ^ a b admin76crimes (24 December 2018). "Christmas in prison for outspoken Ugandan gay ally". Erasing 76 Crimes. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  38. ^ "Dr Stella Nyanzi to spend Christmas in Luzira prison". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  39. ^ "Uganda contravenes constitution in Stella Nyanzi case". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  40. ^ Mulgrew, Nick. "PEN SA Condemns Re-Arrest in Uganda of Dr Stella Nyanzi | PEN South Africa". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  41. ^ a b "Academic Stella Nyanzi charged with 'cyber harassment' | Uganda News | Al Jazeera". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  42. ^ "She Strips, She Swears, She Goes To Jail ... For The Good Of Her Country". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  43. ^ Max Bearak, 12 April 2017, "This professor called her president ‘a pair of buttocks.’ Now she’s in a maximum security prison." The Washington Post.
  44. ^ a b "Stella Nyanzi: The woman who used Facebook to take on Uganda's president". Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  45. ^ Serunkuma, Yusuf. "How Stella Nyanzi challenges our public use of reason". The Observer - Uganda. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  46. ^ nationmedia 2017. "Stella Nyanzi fans collect foodstuffs, want activist freed on". NTV. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  47. ^ BEST SHOOTS, Dr Besigye speaks out on Stella Nyanzi Museveni wants to End her Life, retrieved 8 January 2019
  48. ^ "Isaac Semakadde; Legal rebel Anti-clockwise thinker". The Independent. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2019.

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