OSIEA Successfully Broadcasts the First Sexual Minority TV Program in Uganda

The Open Society Initiative for East Africa, in partnership with the Media Development in Africa, MEDEVA, successfully broadcast the first ever television program featuring sexual minority rights in Uganda.

Amidst fears that the program would lead to further suppression and intolerance of sexual minority groups, Agenda Uganda broadcast live on Nation Television (NTV). The show's theme was "sexual minority groups have the right to demand recognition in Uganda." Three panelists, a balanced mixture of those who support and those who do not support sexual minority rights, presented arguments to sell their position to a charged audience.

Over 70 participants including human rights defenders, students, researchers, and policy analysts from Kampala and its environs eagerly contributed to the debate. Agenda Uganda is produced by MEDEVA, a local NGO that makes public-interest TV and radio programs.

Uganda is a country that currently criminalizes homosexuality and commercial sex work, and has repeatedly made efforts to silence sexual rights activists. Ugandan authorities have harassed homosexual human rights defenders in their homes and in public, and fined a private radio station that broadcast a program on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men.

One of the highlights of the debate was the right of the sexual minorities and commercial sex workers to make independent choices about their sexuality. As some argued, the Ugandan constitution respects the right to privacy and freedom to choose a partner. Among the issues included the recognition that sexual minorities exist in Uganda and the fact that homosexuality is not a new phenomenon from the West but existed even in African traditional societies.

Other issues highlighted were the need to legalize sex work to avoid exploitation and violation of sex workers' rights, the need to sensitize security agencies to respect and protect sexual minorities, and the need to include and involve sexual minorities in the fight against HIV/AIDS.