Coming one day after Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill into law, the controversial country’s tabloid newspaper, Red Pepper, released a cover story marked, “Exposed! Uganda’s Top 200 Homosexuals.”
The Kampala paper hit the ground running on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 and is already gaining traction around the world for the sheer content of its media. Many on the list reportedly were not out to their communities, families, loved ones…possibly themselves…but they sure are now.
The “Top 200” list included prominent Ugandan gay activist Pepe Julian Onziema, a popular Ugandan hip-hop star, and a Catholic priest. Sympathizers were also mentioned in the story. The paper’s news editor said they published the full names of only the well-known activists and had tried to use nicknames for those not publicly gay.
A similar occurrence took place in 2011 when the tabloid published a list of homosexuals in Uganda and asked for them to be executed.
“The media witch hunt is back,” tweeted Jacqueline Kasha, a well-known Ugandan lesbian activist who is among those listed in the Red Pepper story.
The AP reports:
Uganda’s new-anti-gay law punishes gay sex with up to life in jail. The bill originally proposed the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV. First-time offenders also face life in jail, contrary to an earlier version of the bill that mentioned a 14-year jail term.
The new law also creates the offenses of “conspiracy to commit homosexuality” as well as “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” both of which are punishable with a seven-year jail term. Those convicted of “promoting homosexuality” face similar punishment.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stern response upon learning of the news. “This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law,” he said.
Kerry added, “The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution. Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda.”
The subject of HIV/AIDS was also mentioned in Kerry’s statement.
“We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective,” Kerry said.
While U.S. President Barack Obama did not issue his own statement at the time of this story, Kerry did share a few words on his behalf.
“As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values,” he said.
Canada also strongly condemned the anti-homosexuality law Tuesday. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said: “Canada is extremely disappointed that President Museveni has signed this piece of legislation, which will make homosexuality punishable with life imprisonment. We strongly urge the President to protect the human rights of all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, in accordance with Uganda’s constitution.”
He added, “This act is a serious setback for human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms and deserves to be widely condemned. Regrettably, this discriminatory law will serve as an impediment in our relationship with the Ugandan government.”
Baird reiterated Canada’s ongoing involvement with finding human dignity in Uganda.
“Canada has repeatedly raised our concerns with the Government of Uganda, and we have done so again,” Baird said. “Our engagement on human rights issues will only become more persistent. We will continue to support efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and combat violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
Nicholas Opiyo, a Ugandan lawyer who runs a rights watchdog group Chapter Four predicted Tuesday that the new law would make life worse for Ugandan gays.
“The enactment of the anti-homosexuality bill has only emboldened the…population in their rejection of anybody perceived to be gay or even friendly to gays,” he said. “These things are going to continue. They are going to get more frequent.”
“From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society,” said Kerry.
No word yet on which countries will offer asylum to the accused in Uganda.