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Posts for March, 2014

Human Rights Groups Petition Uganda’s Constitutional Court over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2014

Petition to the Constitutional Court (click to download/PDF: 219KB/11 pages).

Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports:

A coalition of fifty civil society organisations on Human rights today filed a petition in the constitutional court challenging the legality of Law on Homosexuality.

The activists argue that the Anti Homosexuality Act violates Ugandans’ Constitutionally guaranteed right to: privacy, to be free from discrimination, dignity, to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association; to the presumption of innocence, and to the right to civic participation.

In a statement issued by the Coalition Members, the petitioners said that the Act represents an effort by the Executive and Parliament to scapegoat an unpopular minority for political gain.

There are ten named petitioners, including LGBT rights activists Dr. Paul Semugoma (longtime BTB readers may know him as the formerly the anonymous blogger GayUganda), Freedom and Roam Uganda founder Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, transgender rights activist Julian Pepe Onziema, and Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha. The petition was also signed by Joe Oloka-Onyango, a Professor of Law and Director of the Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Centre in Kampala; Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and founder of the Ugandan news magazine Independent; and M.P. Fox Odoi-Oywelowo. Rounding out the named petitioners are the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

The petition states that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by parliament without a proper quorum as required by Uganda’s Constitution and that it violates the Constitutions guarantees of equality and privacy. The petition also argies that “in criminalising touching by persons of the same sex, creates an offence that is overly broad and is in contravention of the principle of legality” under the Constitution. The petition then goes on to each clause of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and describes the articles of the Constitution the clause violates.

It would appear that the law itself is not yet officially in effect. The final step to make a law official is for it to be “gazetted,” or published in the official Uganda Gazette. This is a common formality in a number of British Commonwealth nations, but Daily Monitor notes that the Anti-Homosexuality Act has not yet undergone that step. The petition asks the court to “permanently stay() the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

The petition is also calling on the court to issue an order barring media from publishing photos, names, addresses and occupations of people thought to be gay. Since President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on February 24, tabloids like Red Pepper, Hello and others have been waging mass vigilante campaigns on their front pages and publishing other stories designed to incite hatred and violence. There have been reports on blogs and social media that LGBT people are receiving eviction notices from their landlords.

Barred from “Outing” Campaigns, Ugandan Tabloids Turn To Gay-Baiting And Imaginative Conspiracy Theories

Jim Burroway

November 13th, 2010
November 13 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Saturday Onion": "30 gals join campus lesbian club"

November 13 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Saturday Onion" (Click to enlarge).

Two weeks ago, Uganda’s High Court ordered a halt to the anti-gay vigilante campaign that was being waged by the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name). Even though that order only applied to Rolling Stone, it appears that other publications may have taken that order as a shot across the bow as another tabloid Onion (also no relation to the U.S. satirical newspaper by the same name) halted its own vigilante campaign as well. The tabloids have instead turned to more traditional forms of gay-baiting. While these latest examples aren’t as individually threatening to the country’s LGBT citizens, they nevertheless continue to feed into anti-gay fears and stereotypes, contributing to the overall deteriorating climate for sexual minorities overall.

A reader in Kampala sent us updates of two tabloid editions published over the weekend. Saturday Onion came out with a sort of a “girls gone wild” theme this weekend, with a story about an alleged “lesbian club” at Uganda’s prestigious Makerere University “for purely gals who hump fellow gals.”

Saturday Onion: "Lesbian club opens at university."

Page 2 of the November 13, 2010 edition of Saturday Onion (Click to enlarge).

The article isn’t just very salacious, it’s also obviously the product of an extremely active imagination. It repeats the widely-believed claim that the club’s sole purpose is to recruit unsuspecting young women into homosexuality. “These gals are said to be well equipped with training videos, manuals, magazines and audio CDs, which they use to orient the gals and equip them with the best techniques of sexual satisfying fellow women,” the unnamed “reporters” write. It describes a sexual position which allow them to “easily please each other as their yoyos tickle.”

The article closes with the oft-repeated rumor that the only reason homosexuality exists in Uganda is because of foreign influence. “These Lesbos are said to be financed by NGOs from the Netherlands, USA, Switzerland, Sweden, and are very loaded, so they can do anything they want anywhere.” But in typically careless fashion for Ugandan tabloids, the article abruptly ends mid-sentence before the writer could “smoke out some of these wicked gals and…”

I’m not much of a feminist theorist. I think this is probably about the first time the word “misogyny” has ever gone from my fingertips to the keyboard. But I will have to thank feminist theorists for the word as I cannot find any other to describe the contents of Saturday Onion. It is filled with insecurities over the mysteries of women’s sexuality. Another article purports to describe a hitherto unknown sexual technique called “kunyaz” or “Western Jazz,” which purportedly can bring a woman to orgasm within three to five minutes, a time frame undoubtedly chosen to set insecure straight men’s minds at ease.

November 13 edition of Saturday Onion: "Pastor Ssempa lost sponsors over homos."

Click to enlarge.

Onion has another interesting report for those who follow the antics of Ugandan anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa. He has apparently acknowledged to the tabloid that “since he waged war on bum drillers, funds slipping into his church project have drastically dwindled.” Over the past year, several of Ssempa’s U.S. backers have publicly announced that they have dropped their financial support for Ssempa over his promotion of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. That bill, which at last report is still in committee in Parliament, would impose the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances, and would throw relatives of gay people into prison for three years if they failed to report their loved ones to police. According to Onion, “Ssempa is very bitter about dime not flowing into his church anymore from the Netherlands and other countries like it used to.” Cue the violins.

"Rolling Stone": "Homo generals plotted Kampala terror attacks."

November 15, 2010 edition of "Rolling Stone": "Homo generals plotted Kampala terror attacks." (Click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone, having been warned explicitly by High Court against outing gay individuals, is throwing its own little tantrum. In their latest issue, the tabloid features an utterly delusional front page story alleging that “Homo generals plotted Kampala terror attacks.” That article claims, “Bloodthirsty generals in the evil homosexuality world plotted the bloody bombing of Kyaddondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala on July 11.”

That attack, which occurred while Kamapala residents were watching the World Cup finals on large television screens erected at the park, killed at least 64 people including one American. Al-Shabaab, the radical Somali Islamic insurgency group with ties to Al-Quaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. That attack, in essence, is Kampala’s own equivalent to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.; the Madrid attacks of March 11, 2004; and the London attacks of July 7, 2007.

Rolling Stone’s farcical conspiracy theory hearkens to the Holocaust revisionism of American anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who claims that the Nazi movement was, at its core,an entirely homosexual movement, and that the inevitable result of equality for LGBT people would be the dictatorial imposition of violent fascism. At a talk that he gave in Kampala in March of 2009, Lively also blamed the 1994 Rwandan massacre on gay men.

November 15 edition of "Rolling Stone": "Homosexual generals plott Kampala terror attacks."

Page 2 of the November 15 edition of "Rolling Stone" (Click to enlarge).

We don’t know if the people behind Rolling Stone attended that talk or are otherwise familiar with Lively’s discredited attempts at historical revisionism, but this article certainly takes its cues from a very similar brand of paranoia. The tabloid alleges that the Kampala bombings were an act of retaliation by foreign homosexuals who “were expressing their dissatisfaction with government for not respecting their rights.” They also, according to Rolling Stone, chose the two venues because “homosexuals feel hurt when they see  heterosexuals having fun… They seethe with revenge.”

Getting Al-Shabaab and Al-Quaeda, perhaps two of the most virulently homophobic terrorist groups in the world, to cooperate with this incredible gay conspiracy would be an astonishing feat. But logic isn’t very high on the minds of Rolling Stone. Their true anger is over the High Court decision to prevent Rolling Stone from publishing the names and faces of private LGBT Ugandans. They write:

None of the homosexuals whose faces we published recently was responsible for the carnage. …

…Kampal High Court Judge Kubuuka Musoke Monday issued an interim in junction on Rolling Stone, barring this investigative newspaper from publishing any information that could lead to the identification of homosexuals. This means Rolling Stone, which is managed by law-abiding citizens, can not publish particulars of this who were behind the sinister plot.

In other words, Rolling Stone is saying let us publish the names and faces of private citizens, or we’ll go completely batshit crazy. From the looks of Giles Muhame’s incoherent editorial on page 5 of the same edition, he is already nine-tenths of the way there. If you want to bother with it, you can see that feverish editorial here.

Second Ugandan Tabloid Gets Into the “Outing” Act

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2010
Uganda's "Sunday Onion" from Oct 31: "Fr. Tony Has Turned Me Into His Sodomy Toy" (Click to enlarge.)

Uganda's "Sunday Onion" from Oct 31: "Fr. Tony Has Turned Me Into His Sodomy Toy" (Click to enlarge.)

A second Ugandan tabloid, the Sunday Onion (no relation to the U.S. satirical paper by the same name) has decided to join Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name — why can’t anyone come up with anything original?) in a “me, too” game of gay outing. Sunday Onion’s cover story proclaims “Fr. Tony has turned me into his sodomy boy: Boy confesses being sodomized by priest, names partners in homo sex.”

The priest named in the Sunday Onion, “Fr. Tony,” is Fr. Anthony Musaala, a popular Catholic priest and gospel singer who was accused of homosexuality more than a year ago. That so-called “outing” was the start of an intensive “pastor’s war,” in which rival pastors accused each other of homosexuality as a means of discrediting the more popular and wealthy pastors. Martin Ssempa was a key player in many of those accusations. He was eventually brought up on charges of filing false reports with the police, but it is unclear today where those charges stand.

Sunday Onion, Oct 31, 2010, page 3. (Click to enlarge. Names and photo psbscured by BTB.)

Sunday Onion, Oct 31, 2010, page 3. (Click to enlarge. Names and photo psbscured by BTB.)

Ssempa is also believed to be behind the latest anti-gay campaign being executed by Rolling Stone. That tabloid was ordered by a Ugandan court earlier today to cease publishing “identities by name or pictures or any relevant implication of the person or person perceived by the respondents to be gay, lesbian or homosexual in general.”

Sunday Onion is under no such injunction. In addition to a very florid account by a so-called “top gay activist,” Sunday Onion pubished the identities of nearly twenty LGBT Ugandans. Many of those identified were well-known LGBT advocates, but many more were ordinary private citizens. In some cases, their occupations and towns were listed as well.

Red Pepper, Oct 31, 2010: "Media Advisory: Serial Lesbo On the Run." (Click to enlarge. Names and photo obscured by BTB.)

Red Pepper, Oct 31, 2010: "Media Advisory: Serial Lesbo On the Run." (Click to enlarge. Names and photo obscured by BTB.)

Meanwhile, Red Pepper, the tabloid which practically invented the art of anti-gay vigilantism, engaged in a bit of gay-baiting itself in its most recent issue. A page 6 article, titled “Media Advisory: Serial Lesbo On the Run,” alleges  that a lesbian had “surfed the yoyo” of her housekeeper and was now being sought by police.

Of course, the main intent of the story is not whether there is any factual information behind it, but to reinforce the stereotypes that run rampant in Uganda of predatory gays and lesbians. Undoubtedly, if there’s anything we’ve learned from watching Uganda’s tabloids, it’s that the easiest way to get back at someone — whether it’s a pastor or an unpopular sports figure — is to accuse that individual of homosexuality.

Red Pepper routinely carries stories in which various public and private figures are accused of homosexuality. It’s last major anti-gay campaigns however occurred in April and December of 2009.