Producer Of Pro-Gay Play Arrested In Uganda; Faces Two Years In Jail

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By Maya Shwayder | September 8, 2012 7:01 AM EST

Two weeks after a play about a gay man living in Uganda was staged in Uganda itself, the British producer of the show has been arrested, according to the Guardian, allegedly because the production defied a ban by state regulators.

David Cecil faces up to two years in jail.

The play, called "The River and the Mountain," was performed in a small theater in Kampala, out of fear, said the AP, that police would raid the Uganda National Theater, where it was initially to scheduled to be held.

On August 16, the Ugandan Media Council sent a letter to Cecil  warning that the play could not be staged while it deliberated over the matter.

Cecil himself explained to the Guardian: "I was called in by the police and spoken to by several officers from the media offences department... They said that by staging the play I have disobeyed the Media Council, which is a public authority. I've been charged with that offence and they are now considering whether to press on with the case. But I had only taken their letter to be advisory, not the law."

The Ugandan ethics minister Simon Lokodo condemned the play.

"This play is justifying the promotion of homosexuality in Uganda, and Uganda does not accommodate homosexual causes. We will put pressure on anyone saying that this abomination [homosexuality] is acceptable," he said.

But Ugandan gay activist Pepe Julian Onziema praised the play, saying it was "revolutionary," and could help reduce the stigma against homosexuals in the country.

The principal actor in the play, Okuyo Joel Atiku Prynce, said he was disappointed by the state's refusal to allow it to be publicly performed.

"We're actors, not activists," he said. "The play is there to inspire discussion in the community and to get a reaction from people. We want it to open up a dialogue."

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda - an anti-homosexuality bill was introduced to the Ugandan Parliament in 2009 that would punish acts of same-sex relations with life imprisonment or death. It has not yet passed the Parliament.

Local papers are known to publish names and addresses of "known" or "suspected" homosexuals.

As a conservative, overwhelmingly Christian society, many Ugandans regard homosexuality as contrary to both African traditions and their faith. Gays are often brutalized and even killed in the country.

In January 2011, David Kato, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, was found bludgeoned to death.

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