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Ugandan court gags anti-gay paper

November 8, 2010

ugandaThe latest twist in Uganda’s hang the ‘homos’ saga was played out last week when the High Court in Kampala ordering Rolling Stone newspaper to stop publishing the names, photographs and addresses of people it says are gay. Alongside the photos, the paper urged the government: “Hang them.”

The court order came too late for the 26 already featured in two issues of the young newspaper that most people in the East African country have never heard of.

Frank Mugisha, director of gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, told me last week that almost everyone outed by the paper, including himself, had since been attacked or harassed and that some were in danger of losing their jobs.

The same day I spoke to Frank I met Giles Muhame, the defiant 22-year-old editor of Rolling Stone, who now says he will find a way to “dodge the law” and work through a list he says he has of 100 gay men and women.

Muhame’s views will be abhorrent to many Western people of a similar age. Gays are “evil”. They “convert” children, they take drugs, they are akin to “terrorists”.

But his views are not uncommon among many young Africans. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries on the continent and gay people are mostly in the closet. In Uganda’s bars and cafes, I found a lot of support for Muhame and his paper.

This is the second time Uganda has caused uproar for the treatment of its fearful gay community. An anti-gay bill was tabled in its parliament last year proposing prison sentences for gays and the death penalty for “persistent” homosexuals.

U.S. President Barack Obama called it “odious” and many suspected that American evangelicals – and their money – had influenced the MP who proposed it and those who supported it.

The legislation has been quietly shelved for the time being but gay activists in the country are worried that it will be passed after elections set for February.

So what next? Can Muhame dodge the law? Or will Uganda’s gay community –  swearing to bring another legal challenge if he tries – win out?

What do our Ugandan readers think of this story bringing their country international headlines? And will Africa always be a difficult place for gay people to live openly?

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