비정부기단체인 “우간다 성소수자의 모임(Sexual Minorities Uganda)”의 회장인 프랭크 무기샤(Frank Mugisha)는 그의 성 정체성 때문에 협박 받는 일이 전혀 생소하지 않다. 그러나 우간다 타블로이드신문이 그의 신상정보에 대한 자세한 내용을 싣고 “어린이를 모집”했다는 이유로 교수형에 처하자고 선전 했을 때 심각한 어려움이 닥칠 것을 예상했다, 길거리와 법정에서.
“롤링 스톤”지는 10월 2일에 발행한 첫 신문에서 “100명의 우간다 최고 호모사진 유출”이라는 선정적인 제목과 “호모, 2012년까지 100,000명의 어린이 모집 계획 중” 이라는 기사와 “호모들의 학교습격으로 인해 부모들의 가슴이 무너지고 있다”라는 내용과 함께 성적소수자들을 “교수형”에 처해야 한다는 기사를 담았다. 무기샤는 이 기사를 성소수자들에 대한 두려움과 혐오감을 불러일으키기 위한 것 이라고 설명했다.
무기샤는 국제앰네스티와의 대화에서 이 기사가 그에 인생에 미친 영향과 그 신문이 더 이상 성소수자들에 대한 혐오기사들을 다룰 수 없도록 법정에서 싸우고 있다고 말했다.
지난 11월 1일, 법원은 “롤링 스톤”에 더 이상 성 소수자들의 신상정보에 대한 기사들을 실지 말 것을 명령했으며 그들의 사행활 침해 혐의를 인정했다. 그러나 신문은 이 명령을 무시하고 계속해서 혐오기사들을 실을 것이라고 발표했다. 11월23일, 이와 관련해 고등법원에서 재판이 있을 예정이다. 무기샤는 판결에 대해 낙관적인 기대를 하고 있지만 그가 아직도 위협받고 있는 활동가라는 사실에는 변함이 없다.
UGANDAN GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: ‘I HAVE TO WATCH MY BACK MORE THAN EVER’
5 November 2010Frank Mugisha, Chair of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda, is no stranger to receiving threats because of his sexual orientation. But when a Ugandan tabloid published his personal details in October and called for him and others to be hanged for ‘recruiting children’ he knew there would be a struggle ahead – on the streets and in the courts.
Mugisha has told Amnesty International about the impact of the article on his life, and the so far successful legal battle by his organization, to stop the tabloid from inciting more hatred and violence towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.
One day last month, “a friend gave me the paper, and told me ‘well, you’re one of the top homos in Uganda’.”
The first issue of the ‘Rolling Stone’ tabloid on 2 October bore the front page headline ‘100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak’ with a caption reading ‘Hang Them’.
According to Mugisha, the ‘Rolling Stone’ article was the most hostile attempt yet to incite panic about gay people in Uganda.
The front page also bore the claims “We Shall Recruit 100,000 Innocent Kids by 2012 – Homos” and “Parents Now Face Heart-Breaks [sic] as Homos Raid Schools.” The issue, and another published on 31 October, together publicised the identities of 117 alleged homosexuals.
“When I read the headline that said ‘hang them’ and then the fact they said we are out to recruit children, I was worried about the Ugandan community reading that kind of information and how they would react to it.”
“Two days after the paper was on the streets I was harassed in my area, with verbal insults. Almost every person who was named in the paper has been harassed, and some have been attacked.”
“The harassment comes from phone calls, people on the street, from neighbours, asking them why they are recruiting children, saying ‘the newspapers are calling for you to be hanged, we think you are worth it, worth being hanged, being killed’.”
One of the members of his organization had her home pelted with stones by her own neighbours.
“I do feel threatened, I feel now I have to watch my back more than ever.”
But Mugisha and his organization were not forced into silence by this wave of harassment. They have taken the tabloid to the Ugandan High Court.On 1 November, the court issued an interim injunction against ‘Rolling Stone’, banning them from publishing any further personal details of alleged homosexuals as an invasion of privacy. A hearing into the merits of the case will be heard later this month.
According to media reports, the paper has since reportedly vowed to break the ban, saying it will continue to publish personal details of alleged homosexuals.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under colonial-era laws contrary to international human rights standards. In a chilling development in 2009, an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed to institutionalize discrimination against people believed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. The bill has yet to be debated in parliament.
“All this homophobia comes from ignorance. The fact that there’s no space for discussion, no space for understanding, that’s why some of these government officials don’t understand the LGBTI issues.”
Mugisha’s work continues, with a further High Court hearing against the newspaper scheduled for 23 November. He is optimistic about the hearing and confident in his organisation’s legal team. Still, the life of an LGBTI activist in Uganda is one lived in caution.
“I don’t know what could happen to me at any minute. I do not know who wants to hang me, I do not know who wants to attack me. I cannot decide on my fate. [But] I cannot go back in the closet – I gave my life to the movement, I can’t change it now.”
“What I can do is keep fighting on and be very careful.”