Uganda: ‘I cannot go back in the closet’

Issue 
Frank Mugisha.

Frank Mugisha, chair of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMU), is no stranger to receiving threats because of his sexual orientation, a November 5 Amnesty International statement said.

“But when a Ugandan tabloid published his personal details in October and called for him and others to be hanged for ‘recruiting children’”, the statement posted on Amnesty.org continued, “he knew there would be a struggle ahead — on the streets and in the courts”.

Mugisha told Amnesty.org the SMU has waged a so far successful legal to stop the Rolling Stone tabloid from inciting more violence against Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

SMU took the paper to the High Court, which issued an injunction banning it from publishing further names of alleged gay people. A further hearing is set for November 23, Amnesty.org said.

“A friend gave me the paper, and told me ‘well, you’re one of the top homos in Uganda’”, Mugisha said of the front page story that listed the names and details of 117 alleged gay people and called for them to be hanged.

“Two days after the paper was on the streets, I was harassed in my area, with verbal insults. Almost every person who was named in the paper has been harassed, and some have been attacked.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under colonial-era laws. Amnesty.org said in 2009, the government proposed the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” in an Anti-Homosexuality Bill yet to be debated in parliament.

“I don’t know what could happen to me at any minute”, Mugisha told Amnesty.org. “I do not know who wants to hang me, I do not know who wants to attack me. I cannot decide on my fate.

“[But] I cannot go back in the closet — I gave my life to the movement, I can’t change it now.”

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