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World’s worst place to be gay?

What do you want Uganda to be famous for?

Uganda holds a reputation for being beautiful, peaceful, hospitable, a haven for tourists and investors; the ‘Pearl of Africa’.

Recently Uganda has been making headlines. On the February 14, 2011, the BBC aired a documentary, The world’s worst place to be gay. Gay DJ Scott Mills travelled to Uganda, spoke with people on the streets of Kampala, asking their opinion on homosexuals, and some of the responses were, “I hate them”; “they should be killed”, and “it’s disgusting”.

Mills visited a gay bar in Kampala where men spoke of the fear they live in. One young lesbian told him that she had been raped in an attempt to cure her of her orientation, leaving her pregnant and HIV-infected.

Then came his encounter with legislator David Bahati, who, Mills says, wanted him arrested. The documentary focused on the alleged institutionalisation of homophobia in Uganda, the belief that it can be cured and the negative opinions that many hold on it.

Incidentally, some are proud of the image the documentary portrayed of Ugandan society. Kampala based graduate Nicholas Bainomugisha said, “I am glad that the BBC have shown such a programme; it shows the world that we will not accept such ungodly behaviour.”

Manchester based business manager, Flora Namirembe, was also impressed by the hard-line opinions of Ugandans interviewed.

“Why should Ugandans have to hide their opinions because the West does not like it?” she said.

On the other hand, travel agent Rosette Kigozi said, “The documentary painted Uganda negatively. Yes we do not agree with homosexuality but that is our culture, it is not to be picked on.

Maybe in years that will change, we thrive on tourism and there will be people who may be put off by the show, is this all Uganda is now going to be about?”

Openly gay Tom Collins remarked, “I loved travelling to Uganda, it is not the only African country where homosexuality is frowned upon but the documentary has put it in the spotlight even though there are numerous Ugandans who do not have a problem with gays.”

The criminalisation of homophobia is an on-going policy debate which is further complicated when the issue of human rights is thrown in, personal opinions on homosexuality are just that – personal.

There are many who do not agree with it, many who deem it wrong in the eyes of God and then there are those who are indifferent to it or simply not bothered.  The opinions of people cannot be changed or influenced in many situations.

The BBC documentary gave voice to those that are gay in Uganda and to those who oppose it, however to suggest it is the world’s worst place to be gay is an exaggeration considering that homosexuality is illegal in numerous countries around the world (particularly Africa and the Middle East) and is already punishable by death in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Uganda  is ‘gifted by nature’, its people are some of the most hospitable in the world and the focus upon the country and its uneasy relationship with homosexuals has been the centre of attention for too long.


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