November 5, 2013 -- This documentary film about the struggle for gay rights in Uganda raises similar issues found in many civil rights struggles in many countries by a number of minority groups, but this particular civil rights struggle in Uganda appears to be a very dangerous one.
The film focuses on a few activists trying to advance gay rights against the head winds of a brand of Christian religion that openly advocates killing homosexuals. The government and the press are also against gay people. Featured in this film is David Kato Kisule, the first openly gay man in Uganda, at least the first since Christian missionaries converted the people of Uganda.
As you might suspect, if no other man had ever come out of the closet in Uganda before, it was a very dangerous thing to do to, and it was. David was not only the first openly gay man, but a leading gay rights activist, a public figure. He was murdered on January 26, 2011, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a newspaper which had published his name and address, along with information on other gays and suggested they be hanged.
A representative of the newspaper, the Rolling Stone (not the famous Rolling Stone magazine) who is interviewed in the film doesn't try to hide his antipathy toward gay people. The newspaper used undercover operatives to identify gay people and list their addresses. The newspaper also openly pushed for tougher laws against homosexuals, called “Kuchu” in Uganda (And who could resist writing “ku ku kuchu,” or make a silly sneezing reference at this point? I couldn't.).
An anti-gay bill that David and other activists fought against in the legislature has been delayed repeatedly, thanks in part to political pressure from other nations, including the United States. The film includes snippets from speeches by President Barack Obama and United Nations representatives opposing the law. At David's funeral, a preacher denounces homosexuals, leading to David's friends walking out of the service and taking his casket with them.
Not all church officials agree on this. A notable exception seen in the film is Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, formerly of the Church of Uganda, a member of the international Anglican Communion, which is split on the issue of gay rights. Some American Anglican churches have aligned themselves with African Anglican churches primarily because of gay rights issues. Senyonjo was excommunicated by the church in 2000 for preaching that homosexuals and others condemned by the church were children of god, deserving equal treatment. It was Senyonjo who finally officiates at David's burial.
This same battle between men of faith in the three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, has been going on for years. While much good has been done by religious people, it is an unfortunate fact that among the attractions of these religions is that they allow people consider themselves morally superior to people different from themselves simply because they were born with the prevailing sexual orientation (or skin color, or heritage, etc.). The ability to feel morally superior without doing anything to deserve it is an emotional reward without cost.
This film tells a story that has been repeated throughout history. The battle for minority rights is a long, difficult and dangerous one. The battle for equality for women and blacks in America has gone on for hundreds of years. The battle for equality for homosexuals in this country is also a long one, but a great deal of progress has been made in recent years. Two things this film shows clearly are the need for a separation of church and state, and for strong minority protections enforced by an independent judiciary. This film rates a C+.
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