Uganda: Tabloid publishes names of ‘gay recruiters’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A Ugandan tabloid has continued its tradition of publishing lists of allegedly gay people, “naming and shaming” them and putting their welfare at risk, with photos of people it claims are “gay recruiters”.

According to The New Civil Rights Movement, the front page of Sunday’s edition of Red Pepper declared: “Top Uganda Gay Recruiters Busted”. Red Pepper asserts as fact the myth of the “recruitment” of straight minors by gay people, and lists people it claims are perpetrators in Uganda.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda. The Ugandan Parliament is due to vote on a bill that would increase the penalties for homosexual acts, potentially enforcing the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.

The criminalisation of gay sex and public attitudes towards homosexuality make the publication of a person’s name in Red Pepper’s list, whether they are actually gay or not, extremely dangerous.

Betty Tibikawa is one of several Ugandan asylum seekers to have fled to the UK after being outed by Red Pepper. The tabloid published her name in a list of lesbians and she was attacked by three men, who branded her thighs with hot irons.

It is unclear how many names were published in last weekend’s edition.

According to a tweet by LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, photographs were published in the Sunday paper alongside the names. He said he was concerned about the “harassment they will face”.

Anti-gay preacher Martin Ssempa, a supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, replied to Mr Mugisha’s tweet saying: “haven’t seen it.”

The paper began its anti-gay outing campaign in 2006, publishing the names and occupations of men it claimed were gay, creating an outcry over the potential danger the men would face.

It quickly followed with a list of 13 alleged lesbians, and urged readers to send in more names: “To rid our motherland of the deadly vice we are committed to exposing all the lesbos in the city. Send more names us the name and occupation of the lesbian in your neighbourhood and we shall shame her.”

The paper has since periodically published similar lists. It has been condemned by human rights and LGBT groups, and blamed for endangering the lives of those it names and shames.

In 2007, it published another list of 40 men along with an exposé on how to spot gay people, including sensationalist descriptions of gay sex under the heading “how the gay men shaft”.

In 2009, it published a list of alleged funders of LGBT groups, even giving their addresses and the make of car they drive.

In December last year, the tabloid published a graphic cover photograph of football coach Chris Mubiru having sex with what was claimed to be another footballer, creating a storm in the Ugandan media.