A Ugandan tabloid published a list of the country's "top 200" homosexuals on Tuesday, outing some who had not publicly identified as gay, one day after President Yoweri Museveni signed legislation mandating harsher jail sentences for homosexual activity.
Red Pepper's list includes gay activists like Pepe Julian Onziema, who spoke out against the new law on Monday, a hip-hop artist who criticized the bill and a Catholic priest. The tabloid has outed people before, according to Box Turtle Bulletin, an anti-gay watchdog site. The site noted that Red Pepper outed a Ugandan artist who spoke out against the anti-gay bill last week.
A similar list was published in 2011 by a now out-of-print tabloid that called for the execution of gay people in the country. Gay activist David Kato was killed soon after that list was published. At the time, a judge ruled that such public outings of gay individuals amounted to a dangerous invasion of privacy, especially given the country's rampant homophobia. So far, no action has been taken against this morning's list, published under the headline "Exposed."
The new legislation punishes "first time offenders," with up to 14 years in prison. Those who commit "aggravated homosexuality," which includes repeated consensual gay sex, sex with a minor, sex with an HIV-positive partner or sex with a disabled person, could yield a life sentence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the new legislation made for "a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights," adding:
Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.
Museveni had cited the bill as a way to prevent Western "recruitment" of young Ugandans into homosexuality.
Other activists and rights groups throughout the world spoke out against the harsh new law. Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, who came out as gay last month, believes that the law is a means to distract the Ugandan public from domestic problems, saying: “Museveni is creating a wedge issue that becomes a global issue at a time the subject matter is there and so his people can unite and he can look strong.” Homophobia is rampant in the country, and the harsh law inspired popular support. Ugandan gay activist Dr. Paul Semugoma agreed, saying "it's simply politics of destruction. We (homosexuals) are convenient scapegoats to be used when they need to boost their political power."
Some Ugandans tweeted out their dismay.
Those who oppose the bill will challenge its constitutionality in court.