A Ugandan court today cleared British play producer / bar owner David Cecil of charges that he “disobeyed lawful orders” from the government when he put on a play in the capital city Kampala about the issue of homosexuality in Uganda.
If he had been convicted, Cecil could have been imprisoned for two years on the charge.
“The case was dismissed and David was given back his passport,” his lawyer, John Francis Onyango, told AFP. “The prosecutor has not presented any evidence and failed to sustain the case.”
Homosexuality remains a controversial topic in Uganda. Current law provides for life sentences for homosexual activity, but that law is generally unenforced.
On New Year’s Eve, however, gay rights leader Joseph Kaweesi was arrested and reportedly is still being held on charges of homosexual activity. He was also charged with “recruiting youth into homosexuality” — an accusation frequently voiced by anti-gay politicians and clergy in Uganda — although that is not a violation under current Ugandan law.
Cecil was accused of ignoring an advance warning from the Uganda Media Council that the play “The River and The Mountain” should not be staged until official clearance was received. The Media Council later banned the play, stating that sections of it “implicitly promote homosexual acts”, which “are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda,” according to AllAfrica.com.
After his arrest, Cecil said he’s not an activist and might have canceled the production if the initial warning had been clearer.
“I really didn’t mean to insult anyone, and I am not a rights advocate. I only wanted to open up dialogue,” he said.
Cecil said he has become enmeshed in a situation similar to what the play portrayed — anti-homosexuality “anger and hatred [that] has been whipped up by politicians and religious leaders for their own purposes,” in the words of playwright Beau Hopkins.
- Ugandan Court Dismisses Case against British Producer of Play Featuring Gay Character (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Uganda ‘dismisses gay play case’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Uganda bar owner arrested for gay-themed play (September 2012, 76crimes.com)
- ‘Gay’ play producer out on bail in Uganda (September 2012, 76crimes.com)