Uganda Paper Publishes Photos Of Gays

The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda's 100 "top" homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: "Hang Them." Alongside their photos were the men's names and addresses.

CBS News reported that in the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

More than 20 homosexuals have been attacked over the last year in Uganda, and an additional 17 have been arrested and are in prison, said Frank Mugisha, the chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Those numbers are up from the same period two years ago, when about 10 homosexuals were attacked, he said.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved. The bill became political poison after the international condemnation. Many Christian leaders have denounced it, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signaled to legislators that they should not take it up

But gays in Uganda say they have faced a year of harassment and attacks since the bill's introduction.

The Oct. 9 article in a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone - not the American magazine - came out five days before the one-year anniversary of the controversial legislation. The article claimed that an unknown but deadly disease was attacking homosexuals in Uganda, and said that gays were recruiting 1 million children by raiding schools, a common smear used in Uganda.

After the newspaper hit the streets, the government Media Council ordered the newspaper to cease publishing - not because of the newspaper's content, but rather that the newspaper had not registered with the government.

That decision has angered the gay community further. Onziema said a lawsuit against Rolling Stone is in the works, and that she believes the publication has submitted its registration and plans to publish again.

"Such kind of media should not be allowed in Uganda. It is creating violence and calling for genocide of sex minorities," said Mugisha. "The law enforcers and government should come out and protect sex minorities from such media."

Rolling Stone does not have a large following in Uganda, a country of 32 million where about 85 percent of people are Christian and 12 percent are Muslim. The newspaper published its first edition on Aug. 23. It publishes about 2,000 copies, but a single newspaper in Uganda is often read by 10 more people.

The paper's managing editor, Giles Muhame, said the article was "in the public interest."

Members of the gay community named in the article faced harassment from friends and neighbors.

"We are an endangered species within our country," said Nelly Kabali, 31. "We are looked at as if we are outcasts. One time I was in a night club with a friend when someone who knew me pointed at me shouting 'There is a gay!' People wanted to beat me up but I was saved by a bouncer who led me out."

It's no surprise that Homophobia is rife in many African countries. Homosexuality is punishable by death or imprisonment in Nigeria. In South Africa, the only African nation to recognize gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called "corrective" rapes on lesbians.

This is so enraging to me because I have no idea what I can do to help stop this. They truly are an endangered species and, it seems, no one is helping them. I suppose all I can do is hope, pray and yell that something will change.

To the Ugandan Gays: Stay strong. I desperately hope things will turn around. We, most Americans, are fighting for your freedom. It will get better...

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