Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Africa and gays: A day after Uganda passed harsh anti-gay laws, a tabloid newspaper came out with a list of what it called the country's top homosexuals
The cover of the Red Pepper newspaper read, "EXPOSED! Uganda's 200 Top Homos Named," with several photographs next to the headline. Recently, President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that made some homosexual acts punishable by life in prison. "They're disgusting. What sort of people are they?" he said. "I never knew what they were doing. I've been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting. But I was ready to ignore that if there was proof that that's how he is born, abnormal. But now the proof is not there." This isn't the first time that a Ugandan newspaper have identified people that it claimed were gay. In November 2010, Rolling Stone - a local tabloid which has no relation to the U.S. music magazine - listed 100 of what it called the country's top gays and lesbians, with photos and addresses alongside a yellow banner reading, "hang them." The next month, the paper listed 10 more people it claimed were gay. The list included addresses and alleged intimate details about them. Museveni had commissioned a group of Ugandan government scientists to study whether homosexuality is "learned," concluding that it is a matter of choice. "I was regarding it as an inborn problem," he said. "Genetic distortion - that was my argument. But now our scientists have knocked this one out." The bill was introduced in 2009 and originally included a death penalty clause for some homosexual acts. The nation's Parliament passed the bill in December 2013, replacing the death penalty provision with a proposal of life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality." This includes acts in which one person is infected with HIV, "serial offenders" and sex with minors, according to Amnesty International. The new law also includes punishment - up to seven years in prison - for people and institutions who perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, language that was not in the 2009 version. Lawmakers in the conservative nation said that the influence of Western lifestyles risked destroying family units. The bill also proposed prison terms for anyone who counsels or reaches out to gays and lesbians, a provision that could ensnare rights groups and others providing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Attitudes against homosexuality are prevalent in Uganda. A 2013 report from Pew Research found that 96% of Ugandans believe society should not accept homosexuality. Thirty-eight African countries have made homosexuality illegal. Even before Museveni signed the bill into law, homosexual acts were punishable by 14 years to life in prison. Ugandan gay rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema said that some gay people in Uganda would rather kill themselves than live under the new law. "Prior to the bill becoming law today, people attempted suicide because they are like, 'I'm not going to live to see this country kill me - so I would rather take my life.' "