Arrests follow, others go into hiding
“Indiscriminate, uncorroborated and unjustified outing” condemned by OutRage!
“President Musiveni is the Robert Mugabe of Uganda,” says Peter Tatchell
London – 7 September 2006
The Ugandan tabloid newspaper, Red Pepper, has outed 45 gay and bisexual men, including army officers, priests, university lecturers, entertainers, bankers, students and lawyers. It also published details of five venues popular with gays and lesbians.
Ugandan LGBTI activists regard the outings as an open invitation to the police and queer-bashers to ‘have a go.’
At least five men were arrested soon after the outing list was published. It is said the police are under pressure to get tough with “sodomites”. They are now cracking down on the LGBTI community in an apparent bid to be seen taking action.
Uganda’s Gay And Lesbian Alliance (GALA) reports that two days after the outing list was published, unidentified men in army uniform attacked one of the outed gay men. He was taken to a police station where he was forced to make a statement.
A student named by Red Pepper was thrown out of home by his parents. He sought refuge with a gay couple he knew. His mother guessed where he had gone and gave the police the address. The gay couple were arrested on charges relating to homosexuality. They have subsequently been let out on bail and are now in hiding.
There are reports that Red Pepper is planning a similar mass outing of lesbian and bisexual women in the near future.
Commenting on the expected outing of women, one Ugandan lesbian activist said: “We are just waiting. I know that some women are definitely going to lose what they have; jobs, homes, families, and friends. It is time that gays and lesbians in Uganda stand together to fight the negative reporting of the press.”
OutRage! is urging its friends and supporters to email polite, courteous protests to the editor of Red Pepper, Arinaitwe Rugyendo:
A copy of OutRage!’s protest letter to Red Pepper follows below – you are free to copy or adapt it for your own protest email.
Male homosexuality is totally illegal in Uganda, and is punishable by life imprisonment. There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the LGBTI community in the last year, including an illegal police raid on the home of the lesbian leader of the Ugandan LGBTI movement, Victor Juliet Mukasa, in July 2005.
Although Red Pepper did not print the outed individual’s family names (only their first names), the accompanying published details about their places of residence and work had made many of them easily identifiable.
A spokesperson for the Makerere University Student’s Lesbian Association (MUSLA) in Uganda said that some of the named men have been subjected to police interrogations:
“The police called some of the boys in the list. Our efforts to help out our friends who have been arrested were fruitless, since the police, under the influence of many different politicians, wanted the guys to be jailed..The gays were not allowed access to proper justice. Some of them were put in cells for more than 48 hours, which are allowed by the police and yet none of them have had the opportunity to be in court. Those who have been released on police bail, we don’t know their whereabouts.
Some of our friends in the past have been arrested and put in torture houses without us knowing there whereabouts. Others have been forced to flee the country. Others have been framed. This is an appeal to the international community and every concerned person, that Uganda as a country is booked for justice. Uganda is a signatory to the international human rights declarations. Your support will be highly appreciated,” concluded the Musla statement.
Victor Juliet Mukasa, chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda, says many gay Ugandans are sick and tired of being pilloried by the Ugandan media, church and political parties. They are “absolutely fed up, determined to defend themselves and no longer ready to be intimidated by exposures and abuse,” she said in a statement relayed to the LGBTI human rights movement OutRage!, in London, which has been working closely with Ugandan LGBTI activists.
Photo of Victor Juliet Mukasa:
Under the lurid headline, “Gay Shock!”, Red Pepper published its mass outing on 8 August 2006. The newspaper denounced gay people in sensational, bigoted terms:
“To a majority of us, straight thinking citizens, it (homosexuality) is an abominable sin, actually a mortal sin that goes against the nature of humanity.
“We are talking about men in this nation who are walking closely in the footsteps of Sir Elton Hercules John and the like by having engines that operate from the rear like the vintage Volkswagon cars.
“To show the nation how shocked we are and how fast the terrible vice known as sodomy is eating up our society, we have decided to unleash an exclusive list of men who enjoy taking on fellow men from the rear.
“We hope that by publishing this list, our brothers will confess and go back to the right path,” concluded Red Pepper.
The LGBT rights movement, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has circulated a letter of protest and defiance to the Uganda media.
SMUG chairperson, Victor Juliet Mukasa, reports that many of those named are “living under unbelievable fear of being arrested, ostracized by their families or sacked from their jobs.
“SMUG is therefore making a loud call to everyone who believes in the rights of human beings to stand up and protest along with us to put an end to such injustices against LGBTI and other marginalized people in Uganda,” said SMUG.
SMUG is a co ali tion of three LGBTI organizations in Uganda; Freedom and Roam Uganda, Spectrum Uganda and Integrity Uganda. SMUG’s statement on the outings follows below.
“We deplore this indiscriminate, uncorroborated and unjustified outing of allegedly gay Ugandans,” said Andrew de Cruz of OutRage!, who has been working with and supporting the Ugandan activist groups.
“It is an unwarranted invasion of privacy which typifies the bigoted, bullying attitudes that are encouraged by the Ugandan government and churches.
“We call on President Museveni to uphold the international human rights laws that Uganda has signed. This means repealing the prohibition on same-sex relationships and legislating protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“It also means halting the intimidation and harassment of the lawful, non-violent Ugandan gay rights movement.
“We express our admiration and support for all Ugandan human rights activists – gay and straight – who are working to end homophobic persecution,” said Mr de Cruz.
Peter Tatchell, campaign coordinator of OutRage!, added:
“Uganda is the new Zimbabwe. President Yoweri Museveni is the Robert Mugabe of Uganda – a homophobic tyrant who tramples on democracy and human rights,” said Mr Tatchell.
Note: This news release has been issued by OutRage! at the request of Ugandan LGBTI organisations. OutRage! is working with them in partnership and solidarity, to support the struggle for queer freedom in Uganda.
Photo of Victor Juliet Mukasa:
SMUG website – www.smug.4t.com
SMUG OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON THE RED PEPPER GAY LIST PUBLISHED IN UGANDA ON THE 8th August of 2006
Kampala, Uganda – 21/08/2006
As a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed (LGBTI) human rights organization we strongly contest the information recently released in the Red Pepper tabloid exposing gay men in Uganda.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) stands for the liberation of LGBTI people and shall not surrender to such homophobic occurrences as those that the Red Pepper came up with.
We believe in freedom for all regardless of sex, sexual orientation, creed, color or race. We stand for the realization of this freedom and we shall not tolerate any injustice made towards the LGBTI community.
We are tax paying and responsible citizens of this nation and nothing should make us less of human beings or Ugandan citizens.
We refuse to sit back and let such unfair acts happen to our people. We shall do all that it takes to liberate our people because that is the freedom we all deserve.
Our brothers whose names were published in the Red Pepper tabloid are currently under-going discomforts and are living under unbelievable fear of being arrested, ostracized by their families or sacked from their jobs.
SMUG is therefore making a loud call to everyone who believes in the rights of human beings to stand up and protest along with us to put an end to such injustices against LGBTI and other marginalized people in Uganda.
The Red Pepper is also hereby advised to stop this outing of individuals without their consent otherwise you will be held accountable for any consequences of the outings.
There is no shame attached to being homosexual but it should be an individual’s choice about how and when they want to share such personal information with family, friends and colleagues.
SMUG is a coalition of three LGBTI organizations in Uganda; Freedom and Roam Uganda, Spectrum Uganda and Integrity Uganda.
For more information please contact SMUG at: [email protected]
Copy of OutRage!’s letter to the editor of Red Pepper:
Dear Arinaitwe Rugyendo,
I am writing to express my dismay that your newspaper outed 45 allegedly gay and bisexual men on 8 August, and that you may be planning to out a similar number of lesbian and bisexual women in the near future.
I fail to see any public interest justification for exposing adults engaged in consenting same-sex behaviour who have not caused harm to others and against whom no complaints of harm have been alleged. These individuals have been convicted of no crime. Your newspaper is inviting vigilante attacks on those who you have outed.
Naming these people risks causing them ostracism and rejection by their families, friends, workmates and neighbours.
It could cause them to lose their jobs and careers. It may put them at risk of violent attack by homophobes – perhaps even murder.
Fear of such adverse consequences could tip some of those named into depression and possibly even suicide.
I do not believe this is what you want or intend. I urge you to reconsider your actions and reflect on the suffering you have already caused.
Please put yourself in the position of the named individuals. You would not like someone to do this to you. Therefore, I urge you to not do it to others.
Please show respect and mercy towards a weak, vulnerable and margin ali sed lesbian and gay community, which already suffers great discrimination and violence.
How about showing tolerance and promoting understanding in the pages of your newspaper? That would be a far more honourable stance to take. It would bring Red Pepper much respect.
Human rights advocate
OutRage! – London, UK