Uganda Government Blocks Film Depicting LGBT Human Rights Workers
December 14th, 2010
Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo yesterday blocked the showing of a documentary film, claiming that organizers intended to “promote homosexuality,” according to Uganda’s largest independent newspaper Daily Monitor. Organizers had intended to show the film at the National Theatre in central Kampala, but found the theater locked when they arrived for the event. The film, appropriately, portrays the difficulties that human rights workers encounter in fighting discrimination in the country.
The showing was organized by the United Nation Human Rights office of the High Commissioner (UNHR), Uganda Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Centre Uganda. The Uganda Human Rights Commission is an official office of the Ugandan government.
The point of contention is that the film specifically depicted the difficulties in dealing with anti-gay discrimination in Uganda. Buturo took this as being “promotion of homosexuality”:
Mr Buturo told Daily Monitor that the organisers refused to delete homosexual contents in the documentary. “Some people are determined to change the morals of our country and are using all tactics. We shall put up resistance because Uganda doesn’t believe in homosexuality,” he said, adding that 40 pupils were invited to watch the documentary.
“This is terrible. I told those people to shut up because they are supposed to defend our country,” Mr Buturo said.
Buturo strongly supports the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. The bill, more famously, provides for the death penalty for LGBT people under certain circumstances and life imprisonment for the rest. If the bill becomes law, another provision would hold the organizers personally liable with fines and imprisonment for five to seven years for trying to show the film.
Last month, Buturo ordered a halt to a conference in Entebbe that was organized to discuss the health issues of sex workers and other problems. Noting that prostitution is illegal in Uganda, Buturo apparently seeks to broaden the reach of the law to also include merely discussing issues surrounding prostitution.
Last September, Buturo lost his race in the ruling party’s primary election to represent the Bufumbira East constituency. He lost to former presidential advisor Eddie Kwizera Wa-Gahungu. Buturo charged that his loss was due to massive fraud, and given Uganda’s less than stellar record with elections, there is credible evidence that fraud might have been a factor. Nevertheless, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) demanded that defeated NRM M.P.’s honor the results, which Buturo has refused to do. He is now running as an independent candidate for Bufumbira East. And as we all know, when you’re down in the polls and facing enormous political odds (namely, a ruling party that won’t back you in what is effectively a one-party state), then lashing out against LGBT people is the tactic of choice among those for whom “ethics” and “integrity” have very little meaning.
Chapter 4, paragraph 29 of Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 460KB/192 pages) provides for “freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media” and the “freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning.” The same paragraph also guarantees “freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed.” Paragraph 34 also contains an affirmative action clause which reads, “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the State shall take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom, for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.” And Paragraph 38 guarantees that “Every Ugandan has a right to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies of government through civic organisations.” It’s a fine document. Someone should show it to Buturo sometime.