LGBT Ugandans Attacked, Killed as Tabloid Lists 'Top 200 Homos'

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com February 25 2014 3:40 PM ET

At least one gay person has been killed in Uganda since the nation's president signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law Monday, imposing lifetime prison sentences for certain LGBT people and criminalizing anyone who supports LGBT equality or "promotes homosexuality."

Ugandan LGBT activists report that a suspected gay couple was attacked after a local tabloid published the names of 200 LGBT people labeled by the tabloid as "Uganda's Top Homos." One of the people was killed in the attack, while other prominent LGBT activists have gone into hiding to avoid becoming victims themselves.  

Tuesday's issue of that Uganda tabloid, Red Pepper, featured a cover spread with the headline "Exposed! Uganda's Top 200 Homos Named," along with graphic descriptions of the prohibitions of oral sex that President Yoweri Museveni issued when signing the bill and allegations that a pastor "raptured" a young boy. Inside, the article outs 200 supposed LGBT people, including Ugandan and international activists as well as celebrities and "socialites" who are suspected of being LGBT or being homosexual "sympathizers." In describing the LGBT activists, the tabloid refers to transgender men as "confessed gay" women and repeatedly calls gay men "bum-drillers." The lengthy list also contends that same-sex couples and LGBT activists have "a sophisticated way of operating, recruiting several boys and girls into the devilish act." 

Red Pepper's public outing follows in the footsteps of the now-defunct tabloid Rolling Stone (unrelated to the U.S. music magazine), which published a similarly titled article in 2010, naming "Uganda's Top Homos" under a banner reading "Hang Them." Less than a month later, Uganda's first out gay man and best-known LGBT activist, David Kato, was bludgeoned to death inside his Kampala home. Despite an order from Uganda's High Court banning the publishing of such lists after the Rolling Stone incident, Red Pepper seems emboldened by the passage of the long-languishing law, which was first introduced in 2009. 

While the Obama administration announced Monday that it is "beginning an internal review" of its close relationship with the Ugandan government, no official sanctions have yet been announced, though the president and Secretary of State John Kerry both said they were "disappointed" by the bill's passage

At least three other international partners of Uganda have made changes to the aid provided to the East African nation in response to the anti-LGBT law's enactment, Al Jazeera reports. The Netherlands reportedly froze a $9.6 million subsidy to the Ugandan legal system, saying that "if the judiciary is to enforce such laws, we do not wish to assist that process." Al Jazeera also notes that Denmark and Norway both announced they would redirect more than $8 million each in government aid toward private sector organizations and human rights groups. 

When Museveni signed the bill into law Monday, he told reporters that he was convinced that homosexuality was a learned behavior, not an innate characteristic. 

"Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends," he said. "That is why I have agreed to sign the bill."

When Ugandan lawmakers first considered the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, the legislation called for the death penalty for anyone convicted of the felony of "aggravated homosexuality," which was defined as repeated same-sex sexual encounters between consenting adults, any sexual encounter in which one person was a minor or HIV-positive, or any in which the participants were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

The law as passed Monday replaces the capital punishment provision for "aggravated homosexuality" with a stipulation mandating life imprisonment and orders that a person charged with the offense must undergo a medical examination — which in practice is usually a forcible anal examination — and HIV test, regardless of the individual's consent. 

The law also imposes harsh sentences on those convicted of aiding, abetting, or conspiring to engage in homosexuality. Any person or organization performing a same-sex marriage is likely to lose their licensure and spend as many as seven years in jail. The legislation also includes a section that allows for extradition of Ugandan nationals who are accused of violating the law but may have fled to other countries. 

The law also enumerates the numerous ways in which the "promotion of homosexuality" is forbidden, clamping down on individuals, organizations, and media outlets that discuss LGBT identities. Specifically, the law imposes five- to seven-year prison sentences on any individual or group that uses the Internet, film, or mobile phones "for the purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality"; anyone who produces, markets, broadcasts, or disseminates "pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality"; anyone who "funds or sponsors homosexuality," "offers premises and … fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality"; and anyone who "acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices." If a corporate entity or nongovernmental organization is found guilty of promoting homosexuality, that group's formal registration with the nation will be canceled, and the director of said organization could be imprisoned for seven years.