In Uganda, Where Being Gay is Illegal, a Drama Emerges

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The producer, who has been intimidated by police, is British. So is the playwright. The actors are Ugandan. And they’ve all challenged the Ugandan government by staging “The River and the Mountain,” a play about an Ugandan businessman who’s life crumbles after he tells a friend, “I’m gay.”

In Uganda, homosexuality carries a life prison sentence. There’s currently a bill before the country’s lawmakers to increase the penalty to death. This life-death struggle of the individual against authority and the social taboo of being gay led Brit playwright Beau Hopkins to pen the work. But authority didn’t like the idea. According to France 24 international news:

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This dramatic comedy, which was slated to play at the capital’s National Theatre, ended up having to move to smaller, private venues after the country’s Media Council forbade its performance in public spaces. The country’s ethics minister claimed the play “justified the promotion of homosexuality in Uganda,” and added, “We will put pressure on anyone who says this abomination is acceptable.”

Eight performances were held without a hitch. However, once the play ended its run, its producer was charged with a criminal offence for allegedly disobeying the Media Council. For this, he risks two years in prison. When contacted by FRANCE 24, David Cecil – who is also British, and helps run a cultural centre in Kampala – said he had taken the letter addressed to him by the Media Council to be advisory, and did not interpret it as a ban. He also said he felt confident he would win his case, and that he’s currently raising funds to take the show to other countries throughout Africa.