Thirteen alleged lesbians have been outed by the Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red
They include two boutique owners, a basketball player and the daughters of a former MP and a prominent Sheikh.
Under the headline, “Kampala’s notorious lesbians unearthed”, the tabloid published a photo of two very beautiful unnamed women embracing at a party.
The article urged readers to phone the newspaper with details of any lesbians they know,
“To rid our motherland of the deadly vice (lesbianism), we are committed to exposing all the lesbos in the city. Send more names us (sic) the name and occupation of the lesbin (sic) in your neighbourhood and we shall shame her. Call: 0712XXXXXX.”
One Ugandan lesbian activist said: “I know that some women are definitely going to lose what they have; jobs, homes, families, and friends. It is time that gays and lesbians in Uganda stand together to fight the negative reporting of the press.”
Ugandan campaigners are relieved that only 13 alleged lesbians were named. They had feared that 20 to 40 women were going to be outed. Some activists suspect that Red Pepper may have scaled back its outing campaign following international protests after it outed 45 alleged gay and bisexual men in August.
There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the last year, including an illegal police raid on the home of the lesbian leader of Uganda’s LGBT movement, Victor Juliet Mukasa, in July 2005.
Red Pepper is reportedly owned by Salim Saleh. According to Wikipedia, he is the half-brother of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. Formerly known as Caleb Akandwanaho, Saleh has faced allegations of corruption and the plundering of resources in the Congo. A former Uganda army chief, he is now Minister of State for Microfinance in the Ugandan government.
The outing of lesbians is the latest in a series lurid, sensationalist homophobic exposes by Red Pepper. Last week, it published the name and photo of a young gay man who is being sought by the police on charges of homosexuality.
Gay sex is punishable in Uganda by life imprisonment, under laws originally introduced by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century.
The same newspaper outed 45 supposedly gay and bisexual men, on 8 August 2006. The men outed last month include army officers, priests, university lecturers, entertainers, bankers, students and lawyers. It also published details of five venues popular with gays and lesbians.
Ugandan LGBT activists regard the outings as an open invitation to the police and queer-bashers to “have a go.” They fear increased state and vigilante persecution.
At least five men were arrested soon after the male outing list was published.
Uganda’s Gay And Lesbian Alliance (GALA) reports that unidentified men in army uniform attacked one of the outed gay men. He was taken to a police station where he was forced to make a statement.
Victor Juliet Mukasa, chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda, says many gay Ugandans are sick and tired of being pilloried by the Ugandan media, church and political parties. They are “absolutely fed up, determined to defend themselves and no longer ready to be intimidated by exposures and abuse,” she said in a statement relayed to gay rights group OutRage!, in London.
Under the lurid headline, “Gay Shock!”, Red Pepper published its mass outing on 8 August 2006. The newspaper denounced gay people in sensational, bigoted terms: “To a majority of us, straight thinking citizens, it (homosexuality) is an abominable sin, actually a mortal sin that goes against the nature of humanity.
“We are talking about men in this nation who are walking closely in the footsteps of Sir Elton Hercules John and the like by having engines that operate from the rear like the vintage Volkswagen cars.
“To show the nation how shocked we are and how fast the terrible vice known as sodomy is eating up our society, we have decided to unleash an exclusive list of men who enjoy taking on fellow men from the rear.
“We hope that by publishing this list, our brothers will confess and go back to the right path.”
The LGBT rights movement, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has circulated a letter of protest and defiance to the Uganda media.
Peter Tatchell, campaign coordinator of OutRage!, added: “Uganda is the new Zimbabwe. President Yoweri Museveni is the Robert Mugabe of Uganda – a homophobic tyrant who tramples on democracy and human rights.”