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Posts for September, 2010

Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda

Jim Burroway

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.

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda

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.

SheilaMore 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.

Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba ButuroSheila 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.

Stanley NdualaBut 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.

Vanity Fair: Uganda Parliament To Discuss Anti-Gay Bill This Week

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2010

Alexis Okeowo at Vanity Fair discloses:

Though widespread international criticism, especially from the United States, derailed the bill in its original form and forced Uganda to drop its death-penalty provision, parliament is set to discreetly pass amendments that would prevent all residents and local and international non-profit organizations from “promoting,” advocating, or associating any of their activities with homosexuality.

The punishment would effectively end all health and sexuality programs geared towards gays and lesbians, allow the government to round up and punish activists at will, and make it essentially illegal for gays to exist.

“I don’t think it’s going to be withdrawn, I don’t think it’s going to stay on the shelves, I think it’s going to pass,” [LGBT Advocate Frank] Mugisha tells me bluntly and calmly as he sips from his soda at an open-air bar in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. “We know now that they’re working on something new—they want to water the bill down and raise it again in a new form.” The bill’s most controversial elements—those criminalizing sexual practices or an H.I.V./AIDS diagnosis—are being scrapped to deflect the attention of critics so that the rest of the bill can pass. Parliament, which opened in early June, will be discussing the measure this week.

This appears to confirm earlier reports suggesting that Uganda’s political leaders will try to pass portions of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill quietly and in piecemeal form so as to escape notice from critics. One report indicated that the Cabinet subcommittee tasked with examining the bill observed that Clause 13, the section outlawing “promotion of homosexuality” had “some merit.” It is this provision that health care workers point to as potentially criminalizing providing health services to LGBT people.

The fact that Parliament is expected to take up the measure again this week suggests that, despite the Cabinet’s recommendations, the bill has experienced a new lease on life. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, recently wrote that the bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, along with his assistant, Pastor Julius Oyet, were “ecstatic at what they perceived as [American pastor Lou] Engle’s strong support of the bill.” Their ecstasy was stoked by Engle’s rally in Kampala held on May 2. Engle is on record as supporting criminalization of homosexuality, along with measures “to not allow it to be legalized, so to speak, so then it just spreads through the legal system of the nation.”

Ugandan LGBT Activist To Tour Eastern US

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2010

I just received this announcement from the good folks at Political Research Associates. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend any of these events. But if you are anywhere near these venues, I strongly urge that you go and listen to Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda to talk about the connection between U.S. conservative religious forces and increased harassment of LGBT people in Uganda.


Frank Musgisha, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) spokesperson, will appear at several public events in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. this month to explain the connection between U.S. conservative religious forces and increased harassment of LGBT people in Uganda .

Mr. Mugisha is visiting the United States to publicize the crisis in LGBT human rights in Uganda. Conservative religious leaders from the United States have targeted African nations such as Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria as anti-gay arenas where they can encourage support of homophobic sentiment at home. African LGBT people have suffered discrimination in the form of “collateral damage” from these campaigns. While it is already illegal to be a homosexual in Uganda, pending legislation would make it punishable even to know an LGBT person and not to report them to the authorities.

Mr. Mugisha was among the first gay Ugandans to come out in order to challenge the myth that homosexuals do not exist in Uganda. The law that prohibits homosexuality in Uganda has successfully keeping LGBT people in the closet. He is among those whose names were printed in the Ugandan media, after which he lost jobs, friends and family. He has faced hostility, threats, arrests, intimidation, and discrimination for his fight for the recognition of gay rights in Uganda. Mr. Mugisha has worked internationally with religious leaders, NGOs, and diplomatic missions to stop the latest anti-homosexuality bill and is a moving speaker on international human rights.

He will be accompanied by Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, author of the recent report published by Political Research Associates, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches , and Homophobia. Rev. Kaoma attended the infamous anti-gay conference in Uganda in March 2009, collecting video footage undercover. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, been cited in media such as the New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, and he has testified before Congress and the UN on how US evangelicals are exporting homophobia to Africa.

Frank Mugisha appearances:

March 22; 6-7:30 pm
Astraea Foundation
116 East 16th St.
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-8021

March 23; 7-9 pm
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027
(212) 870-6700

March 26; 7-9 pm
Harvard Epworth UMC Church
1555 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354-0837

March 27; 12-2 pm
Cathedral Church of St. Paul
138 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 482-5800

March 30; 7-9 pm
Foundry UMC Church
1500 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-4010

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