In Uganda, a country in the dark ages of human rights, where homosexuality is outlawed by a law dating back to colonial times and the parliament on track to debate a proposed death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” in the not too distant future, the safety and lives of LGBT activists are in jeopardy.
On October 2, a tabloid called the ‘Rolling Stone’ published an incendiary article claiming that homosexuals were going to raid the schools and “recruit 100,000 innocent kids by 2012”. The article publicized the identities of 117 alleged homosexuals, 100 of which had accompanying photos. As if the absurd and completely baseless claims weren’t enough, the tabloid decided to include the caption “Hang them” to incite the people of Uganda to attack these individuals.
In the words of Frank Mugisha, Chair of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda:
“Two days after the paper was on the streets I was harassed in my area, with verbal insults. Almost every person who was named in the paper has been harassed, and some have been attacked.”
According to Mugisha, the ‘Rolling Stone’ article was the most hostile attempt yet to incite panic about gay people in Uganda. He has taken the tabloid to court and won a small victory in the form of a court-issued injunction at the beginning of this month, which the tabloid vows to break in their campaign to promote violence and hatred against the LGBT community.
On November 23, the merits of the case, and the status of homosexuals as human beings with rights, will be heard by the High Court. Until then, Frank Mugisha fears for his life:
“I don’t know what could happen to me at any minute. I do not know who wants to hang me, I do not know who wants to attack me. I cannot decide on my fate. [But] I cannot go back in the closet – I gave my life to the movement, I can’t change it now.”