Uganda Newspapers Continue Gay-Hate Campaign
Though Uganda’s High Court handed down an injunction to stop calls for anti-gay vigilantism by the tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone (which is not affiliated with the American music magazine), that publication and others have only stepped up their attacks on the country’s beleaguered sexual minorities.
Last month, Rolling Stone published the names and faces of 100 people it labeled Uganda’s "top homosexuals," and called for them to be hanged. The tabloid’s anti-gay campaign has been linked to incidents of violence targeting gays and lesbians. A Ugandan equality advocate wrote an essay, published in British newspaper The Guardian, describing how the situation in Uganda has deteriorated for GLBTs in the wake of a bill having been introduced by anti-gay lawmaker David Bahati that not only stiffens the penalty for gay sex by imposing the death sentence in some instances, but also criminalizes the discretion of people who know about a gay relationship but do not report it.
That bill provoked international outrage when Bahati introduced it a year ago, but the lawmaker--who has ties to American evangelicals--has never withdrawn it. Recent reports indicate that the bill may now be headed toward becoming law.
Box Turtle Bulletin reported Nov. 13 that Rolling Stone and another Ugandan tabloid that shares a name with an American publication, the Onion, had begun publishing accounts that accused gays and lesbian of terrorist attacks and of mounting a systematic effort to "convert" young heterosexuals. A Nov. 13 Onion article claimed that lesbians were operating a club at Makarere University, Box Turtle Bulletin reported. "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 Onion article reads in part.
Box Turtle Bulletin noted that the article included a claim, repeated often by the nation’s anti-gay political and religious leaders, that homosexuality is not an innate characteristic but a contagion imported from the West. "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," the article states. Anti-gay leaders frequently decry homosexuality as "Un-African" and a pathology rooted in Western decadence.
The tabloids lamented the cessation of Western dollars into the coffers of anti-gay leaders like Martin Ssempa, however. A Nov. 13 story in the Onion said that Ssempa had complained that "since he waged war on bum drillers, funds slipping into his church project have drastically dwindled," as financial supporters in Western nations, appalled by Ssempa’s support for the "death to gays" bill, have stopped sending money.
Box Turtle Bulletin also noted that the Rolling Stone leveled accusations at gays for a terrorist bombing in Kampala last summer that killed more than 60 people. The bomb exploded at a park where a crowd had gathered to watch the World Cup soccer finals on large television monitors. Box Turtle Bulletin noted that a radical Muslim group linked to Al-Quaeda took credit for the attack; Rolling Stone, however, attributed the bombing to "[b]loodthirsty generals in the evil homosexuality world," Box Turtle Bulletin reported.
"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," the Box Turtle Bulletin reads.
"At a talk that he gave in Kampala in March of 2009, Lively also blamed the 1994 Rwandan massacre on gay men," the article adds. Lively was one of three American anti-gay evangelicals who presented what they called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda" in March of 2009. Their talks contained assorted claims about gays and the "dangers" that gays pose to society.
The conference was put together by the Ugandan group the Family Life Network, which purports to uphold "traditional family values." The speakers included not only Lively--author of a book that purports to tell parents how to "gay-proof" their offspring--but also Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus international, an organization dedicated to the idea that gays can be "cured" through prayer and counseling. A third speaker was also in attendance: Caleb Lee Brundidge, who claims once to have been gay, but now to be heterosexual. Mr. Brundage heads seminars focused on "healing" gays (that is, attempting to turn them straight).
The views set out by the visiting American evangelicals ranged from highly dubious claims that gays can be "converted" to heterosexuality to wild, undefined assertions that a "gay agenda" was at work "to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity," as well as stereotype-based pronouncements that gay men prey on teenaged boys.
Bahati’s anti-gay bill was introduced a few months later. Bahati himself is a member of right-wing American religious group The Fellowship Foundation--also known as "The Family"--which also includes Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, as a member. The Family sponsors an annual religious event called The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., for the purpose, some claim, of influencing policy and giving like-minded, powerful individuals the opportunity to network. It is traditional for members of Congress to attend and for the United States President to speak at the Washington, D.C. event. President Obama attended last year’s Prayer breakfast.
Text at the Prayer Breakfast Network website sets out the group’s aims and motivations, informing readers that, "Our PURPOSE is to reach leaders for Jesus Christ.... Our STRATEGY is to use Prayer Breakfast events.
"Prayer Breakfasts have shown to be highly effective at reaching into our community and impacting our leaders," the site’s text adds. "Leaders desire to come, get involved and experience a fresh reminder of our country’s Spiritual Heritage."
The Washington, D.C. event is coordinated with similar prayer breakfast gatherings around the United States on the first Thursday of every February.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.