Comedian Romesh Ranganathan slams Uganda’s ‘disgusting’ anti-gay bill in BBC travel series

Comedian Romesh Ranganathan has spoken out against Uganda’s “disgusting” anti-homosexuality bill during the new series of his BBC travel show.

During the first episode of the BAFTA-winning The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, which airs tonight (29 May) at 9pm on BBC Two, the comic visits Uganda as part of a bid to see African countries that aren’t typical tourist destinations, and find out if it’s worth a trip for fellow Brits.

While a tour guide shows him the idyllic side of the East African nation, his visit comes not long after president Yoweri Museveni signed the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act into law.

The bill builds on Uganda’s existing anti-gay laws which criminalise homosexuality activity, making it one of the strictest countries in the world in terms of its anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

What are LGBTQ rights like in Uganda?

Consensual same-sex activity in Uganda can be punished with life imprisonment, while the death penalty can be imposed for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”, which refers to repeated homosexual sex acts with those aged below the age of 18, over 75, or those with a disability.

Simply attempting to engage in same-sex conduct carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Last month, the bill was upheld by Uganda’s Constitutional Court despite activists arguing that it violated citizens’ rights.

Romesh Ranganathan speaks to a tour guide in Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan
Romesh Ranganathan visits Uganda to learn about the country’s tourism – but is horrified but its anti-gay law. (BBC)

Ranganathan speaks to a Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist and learns about the horrors facing the queer community. Since the bill was introduced, hate crimes have increased dramatically.

“The honest truth is, I find it incredibly upsetting. My heart goes out to the people, I can’t even imagine,” Ranganathan says.

“If you are a member of the gay community or a supporter of the gay community, your life here is incredibly challenging. People feel empowered to be homophobic because they’re backed up by law. It’s horrible, it’s disgusting.”

Protesters waves placards while joining supporters of the LBTQ community as they stage a protest against a planned lecture by Kenyan academic Patrik Lumumba (not visible) at the University of Cape Town on July 24, 2023. Lumumba, who has been invited to address a keynote speech by the South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, has been contested because of his views on homosexuality and his support for Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP) (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)
Uganda’s Constitutional Court upheld the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. (RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

The Weakest Link host goes on to reveal that, ahead of his visit, he was hopeful citizens would rebel against the law, but he finds that’s not the case.

“When I came to the country, I was hoping I could somehow justify what has happened with these new laws, and that they hadn’t been supported and this is something that people are up in arms about,” he said.

“But having spoken to [his guide] Alex, who I think is fairly typical of the views in this country, not only is it a well-supported law, it’s a celebrated one.”

Earlier this year, Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist Steven Kabuye was stabbed and left for dead just metres from his home. He later blamed the attack on the country’s politicians “who are using the LGBTQ+ community as a scapegoat to move people away from what is really happening in the country”.

Episode one of The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan airs on BBC Two tonight (29 May) at 9pm.

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