Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeates Uganda On Tuesday, a judge in the East African nation is expected to decide whether a tabloid may continue to publish the names of gay men and lesbians. The decision comes as the Ugandan Parliament is considering a bill that would impose the death penalty on gays.
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Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeates Uganda

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Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeates Uganda

Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeates Uganda

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Our next story takes us to Sudan's southern neighbor, Uganda. There, a judge is expected to decide tomorrow whether a magazine can continue to publish the names of gays and lesbians. Some people have been attacked since the magazine outed them. It's part of an anti-gay atmosphere in the country, and some say that American evangelicals are at least partly responsible.

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: In October, a tabloid called Rolling Stone - no relation to the American magazine - published an article headlined "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak." The article listed names, addresses and hangouts of gay men and lesbians. Frank Mugisha saw his photo, then he noticed the subhead: "Hang them."

Mr. FRANK MUGISHA (Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda): I was shaken. I was freaked out. I was scared. I'm like, hang them? What is the general Ugandan community going to do to us if the media is calling for us to be hanged?

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Mugisha, who heads up the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, found out a couple of days later when he received a text message from a university student. It said...

Mr. MUGISHA: You guys should be executed. We know where you live. We know who your friends are, and we shall come and deal with you, as the youth of Uganda.

HAGERTY: Mugisha was not physically attacked, but others were, says Christopher Senyojo, a retired Anglican bishop who works with gays in Uganda.

Bishop CHRISTOPHER SENYOJO (Retired Bishop, Anglican Church): I know a girl whose house was stoned and had to run away from some time from that neighborhood. And I've known people who have been actually attacked, because after this publication, some bad elements started to hunt them down.

HAGERTY: Across Africa, gays have been targeted for punishment or violent attacks in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Cameroon. But Frank Mugisha says, in Uganda, there's an American connection.

Mr. MUGISHA: Homophobia has always existed in Uganda, but it has greatly increased over the past, I would say, two years, ever since the American evangelicals came to Uganda.

Dr. SCOTT LIVELY (President, Abiding Truth Ministries): The gay movement is an evil institution.

HAGERTY: That's Scott Lively speaking at a conference on homosexuality in Kampala in March 2009.

Dr. LIVELY: The goal being the defeat of the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.

HAGERTY: Lively, who declined an interview, heads up a conservative evangelical group in Massachusetts that claims that people can be healed from homosexuality. On that same trip, he met with members of Uganda's parliament. And a few months later, Parliament member David Bahati introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty on gays.

Mr. DAVID BAHATI (Member of Parliament, Uganda): I'm trying to make sure that there is a way to protect our children and make sure that our traditional family, the culture that we believe in, is not polluted.

HAGERTY: Bahati says the vast majority of Ugandans oppose homosexuality, and he's just representing their views.

Mr. BAHATI: There has been an impression that maybe Bahati is another Hitler, is another Saddam Hussein. I'm not that. I love people. I love gays. But we disagree on how we should approach this issue.

HAGERTY: Bahati's bill, which will be considered as early as February, would exact the death penalty for consenting gay adults who are, quote, "serial offenders." It would give life imprisonment for touching someone of the same gender in a sexual way, and jail time for anyone, including friends and family, who doesn't turn gay people in.

Bishop SENYOJO: If it was passed, it would be terrible.

HAGERTY: Bishop Senyojo believes what the law doesn't do, vigilantes would.

Bishop SENYOJO: And the mob could definitely attack anybody who they said was a homosexual.

HAGERTY: The Obama administration has warned Uganda that this is a bad idea. David Bahati says America should mind its own business.

Mr. BAHATI: We respect America for what they believe in. They should also respect Uganda for what they believe in.

HAGERTY: Bahati says because of international pressure, he would consider removing the death penalty provisions. He says his bill has overwhelming support in the parliament. But even if it fails, the current law barring, quote, "carnal knowledge against the order of nature," carries a penalty of life in prison.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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