'The Worst Place To Be Gay'

Brett Davidson

In a documentary broadcast recently on the BBC, the British DJ Scott Mills travels to Uganda and reports on the rampant homophobia there. (That’s Mills, above, in a still from the film with Ugandan gay rights activist, Frank Mugisha.) Technically, Uganda may not be the very worst place to be gay. Homosexuality can get you beheaded in Saudi Arabia for example, and there are several other places with similar policies. Nevertheless, Uganda’s pretty bad.

Mills’ film is  depressing viewing as he discovers the breadth and depth of rabid homophobia in Ugandan society. Perhaps because he’s a DJ and not a journalist, I found Mills annoying at times, as he tends to focus on himself and his own reactions a bit too much. But at other times his naive and good natured manner is quite endearing.

At one point, Mills comes out of the closet to Ugandan MP David Bahati, the sponsor of the notorious anti-homosexuality bill. After that, things turn rather sinister.

The documentary does a good job of highlighting the dire situation in Uganda, but I found myself wishing Mills had confronted some of his subjects with something a little more intellectually challenging than simply the fact of his own gayness. For example, interviewee after interviewee insists homosexuality is un-African, and then goes on to quote the Bible. But Mills never asks any of these people just what is so African about Christianity – a religion introduced by colonialists.

Mills does mention the role of American evangelists in whipping up anti-gay fervour but I think that deserved a lot more emphasis. The film also leaves one with the false sense that nobody besides a handful of gay men is trying to do anything about the situation. Many Ugandans are in fact against the anti-homosexuality bill, and a number of strong civil society organisations continue to speak out against it.

The documentary forms part of a BBC series, focusing on various places that are the ‘worst places to be…” I see there’s another on the DRC, as the “worst place to be a woman.”

Here’s Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Comments

comments

5 Comments
  1. What kind of series is this? I am so tired of western media producing “films” that often follow the formula: send white person into African nation to highlight/translate/decode the (peculiar) lives of Africans; feature the most bizarre of Africa’s inhabitants including hilarious/stupid/ridiculous quotes taken out of context and showcase to an audience already saturated with stereotypes about African people. Why couldn’t the BBC choose from the many articulate, competent, capable activists that live and work in Uganda and ask them to tell their own lives and without positioning the UK as some kind of homo-friendly center of the world through this annoying Scott Mills character (who by the way seems never to have ventured beyond the confines of his dj booth). Please can we find more interesting, inventive ways of having these global conversations without all the cliches.

  2. “But Mills never asks any of these people just what is so African about Christianity – a religion introduced by colonialists.”

    This is a nitpicky thing (I’m sorry), but Christianity has been in Africa for a very long time – since the 1st century, most likely. The only reason I bring it up – and this does not reflect on your post in any way! – is that a large part of casting “Africans” as either needing to be saved from each other, or in need of saving due to their own inferiority depends on misunderstanding their histories.

    I agree that this sort of violence has long been inspired or supported by warped religious ‘values’ – whether in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and beyond. I do think the role of U.S. pastors needs to be interrogated more, as you said. What do you think of Rachel Maddow’s attempt to do this?

    http://jezebel.com/#!5422351/rachel-maddow-rips-into-ugandan-anti+gay-bill-american-backers

  3. @Tanya Charles: I think you're too hard on the program–that's the format. The question is then, whether he does a good job: I agree with Brett's assessment.

  4. @Tanya Charles you have my utmost respect for bring this up, I am a Ugandan, anti gay but I too do not agree at all with the image that was depicted by the documentary, which led me to write my own blog on the documentary breaking it down from a Ugandans point of view, i might not be the best person to speak on the matter but some one from Uganda has to.
    Thats a link to my blog if u would like to take a look
    http://s1fu.blogspot.com/2011/03/uganda-worst-pla

  5. @Sean, does a good job of what exactly? Showing how hard it is to be gay in Uganda? I think that much was clear when gay people had their names published with pleas to have them killed. What else did the show highlight? Errrm people's prejudice. Yes, we know of this but again it is not particular to Uganda. Perhaps I am missing the point.
    @S3nsei-THANK YOU for sharing this. Keep using your voice!

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