Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda
September 8th, 2010
Australia’s SBS network, which fills a role similar to that of PBS in the United States, delved into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Sunday in a segment of the documentary program Dateline by Canadian journalist Aaron Lewis. The non-embeddable video is available online at the Dateline web site, along with a full transcript.
This documentary explores similar ground covered in other documentaries on Uganda that have appeared in the U.S. and Britain. Regular readers of BTB are unlikely to learn many new facts, but this documentary does a wonderful job of re-telling the story in different contexts. As with the other documentaries, Lewis obtained interviews with M.P. David Bahati, chief sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters in Uganda’s Cabinet. It also features brief appearances from pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male, who both have been involved with hurling accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors during last year’s vigilante campaign.
Among the things this documentary covers that we’ve seen before is Bahati’s assertion that many American evangelical leaders privately tell him that they support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill bill:
We have friends who are evangelicals in the US and they are being supportive. Some confidentially supporting this, others, very few openly, in support of this because of the fear to be blamed back home and we truly accept that.
But where this documentary truly excels is in covering the impact the debate over the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has had on Uganda’s LGBT community. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said that since the bill has been introduced, life has become much more difficult:
Many Ugandans have taken the law into their own hands and started attacking homosexuals, beating them up. Landlords have thrown people out of their houses because they are saying “If this legislation is passed and I have a homosexual who is a tenant, then I become a criminal, so it is better I throw you out now before the law is passed”.
Pepe, a transgender advocate for SMUg, agrees:
Kampala is one of the places that is known for mob injustice – anything can happen. You can move on the street and someone can say “Look, the homosexual is doing something” – just that word alone is going to draw attention and something can happen so that we live in fear of all the time.
More compelling is this recounting of a case of “curative rape,” a common threat against lesbians throughout Africa.
SHEILA MUGISHA: At the age of 12 I had a friend at home – and actually these things are done by friends. I had always told him my stories, my secrets, my encounters in bed. So, he would tell me, “You know what? I want to teach you how to play with boys, not with girls.” He put his leg here, and here, and then he got into my body, into my vagina, and I screamed because I’d never had any sex, I’d never known, you know, any of those practices. “So, from now, you are going to learn how to play with boys.”
As a result of the rape, Sheila became pregnant at the age of 12. Her family took her to have the child aborted but the effects of the rape continued.
SHEILA MUGISHA: I went to a certain AIDS information centre in Mengo with a friend – I took a test – and it was positive.
Sheila has been living with HIV for almost twenty years. When the reporter told Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo about Shiela, the cabinet minister who has been one of the anti-gay bill’s staunchest supporters said that the entire story is a lie:
I have never heard of that, actually. But they lie a lot. Lies. They use that as a major tool because you see that’s the only way they garner sympathy from all over the world. Now the idea that in Uganda we have plans to kill gays you know, that the bill of Honourable Bahati is intended to kill homosexuals – that is the view that the entire world has got, yet it is not the case.
But what has to be the most interesting element of the documentary for me is that for the first time we get to hear from Stanley Nduala, who writes for the notorious tabloid Red Pepper. He has been in the forefront of that tabloid’s outing campaigns. Apparently, making life miserable for LGBT people pays very well in Uganda; we see Nduala driving around Kampala in a late model Mercedes. Incredibly, he claimed that he, too, would fall under the bill’s provisions against “promoting” homosexuality:
STANLEY NDUALA, JOURNALIST ‘RED PEPPER’: For them, they believe that anything you write about homosexuality is promotion. So they think that I’m working with the activists to promote homosexuality in Uganda. So it is quite strict.
Far from promoting homosexuality, ‘The Red Pepper’ goes so far as to out homosexuals in its most popular section. No-one is spared.
FRANK MUGISHA: I know very many people who were outed in that tabloid who lost their jobs, who lost their families, who lost friends. I know people who were even bashed, I know people who were beaten. I know people who were harassed because they were outed in ‘The Red Pepper’.
REPORTER: Do you feel that you are persecuting a minority?
STANLEY NDUALA: I don’t know why they believe like that. We are just being journalists – True journalists.
Stanley tells me that the reason for such interest is that no crime is as hated as homosexuality here.
STANLEY NDUALA: When you commit homosexuality, they think all these other things, like rape, what, are just minor. If you have done that one, you could do everything.
REPORTER: So here in Uganda, being a rapist is minor compared to being a homosexual?
STANLEY NDUALA: Yes, to the public eye
Lawyer Lad Rekefuzi confirms that rapists and murderers fare better in Uganda’s courts than do gay people.
Also making a brief appearance is retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a brave man who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting last May in Southern California. This documentary is a great addition to the body of work being done all over the world to call attention to the deplorable treatment of LGBT people in Uganda.