The Fall Out: Gay Ugandans Outed in the Tabloids and Committing Suicide
In the wake of Uganda making law its “Jail the Gays” legislation, it’d be easy to be alarmist about the situation. That said, there really is reason to believe that Uganda’s attack on the LGBT rights is turning deadly.
Just hours after President Yoweri Museveni signed Uganda’s Jail the Gays bill into law, Ugandan tabloid the Red Pepper published a front page completed by the headline:
Uganda’s 200 Top Homos Named
This headline appeared alongside headshots of some of the “homos” the paper aimed to out, including two well known LGBT rights activists. Box Turtle Bulletin has images of the three-page spread in which not just well known people are named, but also members of the public whom the paper appears to have no qualms about putting in danger.
It should be noted that this kind of sensationalism of public outing has happened before, and the consequences then were far reaching. The Ugandan Rolling Stone–no affiliation to the American publication–published a list of “Top 100 Homos” in 2010, in which the paper targeted a number of people who were involved with human rights work in the country, but also people who weren’t even gay. They became targets for discrimination and, in some cases, even violence.
The story didn’t end there, either. Victims of the tabloid spread took the paper to court and eventually won, obtaining a court injunction that prevented the paper from ever outing anyone else. That wasn’t much of a victory though, as it is widely believed that human rights campaigner David Kato’s involvement in that case contributed to the anti-gay hate that three weeks later saw him violently murdered.
At any rate, for the tabloids there’s now a key enabling factor they can hide behind, and that can be found in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The legislation contains a clause that makes it an offense not to inform the police about someone you believe to be gay. With this as cover, the Red Pepper seems to feel emboldened enough to publish this kind of extraordinarily dangerous front page. Whether victims can now bring a case to the courts remains unclear.
Needless to say, this kind of act only feeds in to an air of fear and even violence. Attacks against Uganda’s LGBT population have increased in recent years ever since the infamous 2009 conference attended by American evangelicals, from which the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill first rose. That the violence could now escalate barely needs to be said. Add to this the fact that victims have little legal recourse because by the very act of going to the police about anti-gay violence they would be revealing themselves as criminals, and we begin to see how ripe for genocidal hate Uganda is shaping up to be.
Reports say that since Museveni signed the bill into law, there have been at least two confirmed arrests, with several more remaining unconfirmed but highly likely. In tragic addition to that, there are stories that people have in fact taken their own lives rather than risk being mercilessly oppressed under Uganda’s new anti-gay law.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke with one Ugandan activist who tells what life is like now that the Anti-Homosexuality law is in place:
So dire is the situation that UK MPs are being called on to offer asylum to those 200 people named by the Red Pepper. Various countries around the world, while cutting or dramatically scaling back aid to Uganda, are also trying to figure out whether gay Ugandans should be classed as in need of immediate asylum given how dire their situation could be should the country return them to Uganda.
Certainly, according to most international standards, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law now poses a serious threat to liberty and even life, thus triggering asylum relief. How countries deal with that however will be the test. Given how poorly LGBT asylum cases are handled by some nations, including the UK, there is no guarantee Ugandans will receive the safe haven they desperately need.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.