'Corrective rape': how Uganda gets a lesbian to go straight

Oct 15, 2013
Holden Frith

Review: Stephen Fry Out There begins with an eye-opening trip to a land of rampant homophobia

AS RECENTLY as 1988, three-quarters of the British population thought gay relationships were always or mostly wrong. By 2012, the figure had reversed: only a quarter of people held that view.

The first part of Stephen Fry Out There (BBC2) sought out the places yet to benefit from that dramatic change of attitudes. It started oddly, with Fry attending a civil partnership and chatting to Elton John and David Furnish about their relationship. If the aim was to set up a contrast with what was to come, it was utterly unnecessary.

The documentary came to life in Uganda, where the government proposes not only to outlaw homosexuality but to criminalise anyone who fails to report gay friends. During a radio debate, Fry flicks through a local newspaper whose headlines seem to have been written by an adolescent bully. 'Top homos named' was one of the milder examples. The pastor defending the law then lectures Fry on the proper use of his penis.

It’s bizarre, knockabout stuff - almost comic, although we see that Fry is unsettled. But the consequences of all this schoolboy paranoia can be very dark indeed.

Fry speaks to a young lesbian who has been subjected to "corrective rape", intended to bring her back into the heterosexual fold. The attack left her pregnant and HIV-positive - and no more attracted to men.

Refreshingly, the programme puts on no pretence of impartiality. Fry barely conceals his contempt for the ironically titled Minister for Ethics and Integrity, who says the rape of schoolgirls is preferable to consensual same-sex love. "At least they’re doing it the right way," he says.

Fry knows that some will see his involvement as liberal, neo-colonial meddling, but he is unashamed. "He regards my views as an imposition on his country," he says of the minister, "and I suppose in a way he is right."

Earlier, Fry had watched footage of young Iranian men being hanged for the crime of sodomy. "If you let insults and words go by unchallenged," he had said, "if you don’t allow the dignity of homosexuals, it leads to this."

It had seemed a bold claim, but what we see in Uganda bears it out. The absurd newspaper headlines, the sex-obsessed pastors, the populist government ministers - they all contribute to a culture in which gay men and women are attacked with impunity.

Next week Fry is in Russia, where such policies reach their murderous conclusion.

Holden Frith, Editor of TheWeek.co.uk, will be writing regularly on new television and other digital media developments.

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Is shooting this documentary what drove Stephen Fry to attempt suicide I wonder?

Tell me again how bad colonialism was

No, that was bipolar disorder, which he also talks about with incredible frankness in another documentary. I hope you understand that by mocking somebody for something like this, you invite far more ridicule than you invoke.

Read the story again.

How much aid do we give to these animals ?

Homosexuality is legal in Russia. It is outright illegal in around 30% of the world's countries. Russia is not the place "where such policies reach their murderous conclusion." That would be Iran, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somaliland, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan & Maldives. Russia is just the easy target for the press who ignore most of the middle eastern countries human rights abuses.

A lot of these draconian beliefs in Uganda are fueled by US Christian missionaries attempting to get the laws they can't get passed her in the US passed over there. Do a search for "God Loves Uganda".

I am not sure Russia would feel complemented by the favorable comparison to that group. "Damning with faint praise"?

The headline and the story are misleading. Holden Firth went for sensationalism rather than substance. Do you know there are over million Ugandans? Western press machine would rather sit and talk about things that most Ugandans don't even care about. The struggle for Clean water, food, good roads, education, hospitals and better governance don't sell headlines?

"Refreshingly, the programme puts on no pretence of impartiality" - so that's the BBC charter out the window then.

Stephen Fry is a brilliantly successful campaigner for his views, but that's not the role of the BBC.

The BBC Charter requires impartiality across the corporation's output, not in each programme individually. But I'm not sure that impartiality between those who want gay people jailed or driven out of the country and those who think they should be left alone is desirable in any case.

How then do you explain the attention given to the subject in the Ugandan press?

That of course depends upon allowing one side to define the other and then claim they have no right to be heard on that basis.

It's effective politics, but impartial it very clearly isn't.

The BBC always pull the balance over all coverage ploy when they are badly caught out of position.

As I said I wonder what other viewpoints the BBC will give an entire TV series to ?

Uganda is a sovereign country - the views that they hold are their views - not necessarily ours, but genuinely held views nonetheless.

Would we welcome a Ugandan (or a Russian, Iranian etc) coming to our shores to lecture us about heterosexuality/homosexuality? Fry was politely tolerated in Uganda, despite his publicly stated proclivities; after all, homosexuality is not universally accepted in Britain, let alone Uganda.

Each to his/her own.

...obviously far too much!

None. All aid to Uganda was cut off in 2012.

The government of Uganda has proposed NO such law! Please get this straight (forgive the pun) from a gay man who lives in Uganda. The Government of Uganda DOES NOT support this law. It has been tabled in Parliament, some members of cabinet support it, but the official government position is that this law is NOT necessary. It would in fact have already passed if it were not for the President of Uganda frustrating its passage.

Please do wider research. The official response of the government has been given by the president and his minister of foreign affairs and it is that they don't agree with this bill. It is totally misleading to say that Uganda's government has proposed the anti-homosexuality bill - it hasn't. The reason this law hasn't already been passed by Parliament is that the president has intervened, twice, to stop even its being debated.

Impartiality is one thing, it makes hardly any pretense at telling the truth!

One of the worst things about this Uganda debacle is that those bigoted pastors are financially supported and encouraged by fundamentalist christian sects in the UK, USA, and Canada who are using tax exempt charities to funnel money to support policies like those mentioned in the article. Our tax money is supporting these horrors. It is past time to treat christian "charities" the same way as any other non-profit charity: Make sure their money is really going to charitable purposes and tax the crap out of them when it doesn't. Doubtless there are muslim charities supporting similar practices as well.