Performance gives voice to Ugandan LGBTs
by Heather Cassell
Acclaimed Ugandan American artist Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine explores his homeland's LGBT movement in A Missionary Position , a solo multimedia performance based on interviews of four LGBT Ugandans.
A Missionary Position will have its world premiere at the Redcat Theater in Los Angeles on June 28, the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The show, which was co-directed by Emily Hoffman, will run until July 1 when it goes on tour.
Dates for a San Francisco show have yet to be scheduled, said Mwine, 45, an ally, in a phone interview from Los Angeles with the Bay Area Reporter.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity," said Mwine, who happened to be in Uganda when the "Kill the Gays" bill was first introduced in 2009. He witnessed the national and international response and documented it.
"It's great to hear the actual voices, because what we've been hearing from Uganda for the most part have been the voices of fear and the voices of hate. We haven't had an opportunity to hear so much from the voices of the actual LGBT community," he said. "Hopefully, this piece will be able to shed some light."
In his show he takes on four characters – a Ugandan government official, a transgender sex worker, a gay priest, and lesbian activist Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera – documenting their lives through a series of interviews during the yearlong project to create the one-man show.
The release of his project comes on the verge of recent news that Ugandan religious leaders are urging the country's parliament to pass the Anti-Homosexuality bill in its present form, according to media reports.
The anti-gay bill that seeks to criminalize homosexuality in the African nation has sparked international outrage for years, most recently in 2011. Originally introduced in 2009, Ugandans could be jailed on suspicion without bail or trail for up to six months, and even punished by death.
The bill that has undergone several revivals was set aside late last year. Little about the bill's potential new life have emerged so far this year.
Members of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, an inter-religious organization that convened at the beginning of June, said the bill was "needed to prevent what they called an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage," reported Gay Star News.
Some legislatures, including Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, don't believe a new bill is necessary due to strict laws against homosexuality currently encoded in the country's penal code.
Mwine, who has produced films, plays, and photography around the world, was inspired by his homeland's battle against LGBT rights for his second solo multimedia performance.
His first show Biro, told the story of an HIV-positive Ugandan who illegally entered the U.S. to seek treatment.
In light of the hardships and horrors that Ugandan LGBT activists face Mwine was surprised to learn how "vibrant and resilient" Uganda's LGBT community is and that there is hope.
One example that Mwine experienced is Ice Breakers Uganda, a Ugandan gay rights group that opened the country's first LGBTI clinic in Kamapala on June 3, reported Gay Star News. The medical center will focus mostly on free confidential testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS and STI/STDs, along with health services to the LGBTI community, according to the media outlet.
He hopes that audiences will see the same resilience and vibrancy of the LGBT Ugandans when they look through the window he provides in his show.
"They will see that it's a vibrant movement ... that people are responding. It's not a group of victimized folks. These are people who are taking arms against a sea of troubles and responding," said Mwine.
For more information on the Los Angeles premiere, visit http://www.redcat.org/event/ntare-guma-mbaho-mwine-0.
Russia bans Pride for 100 years
Moscow has banned LGBT pride parades for the next century while violence followed a Russian LGBT film festival through its Siberian tour last week.
The ban comes a week after St. Petersburg courts ruled in favor of Russian LGBT activists protesting against the "gay gag" law that went into effect in April.
Russian legislatures are considering a proposed federal anti-gay bill. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993.
Yet, being LGBT in Russia remains a deeply rooted battle.
The Tverskoy District Court upheld a lower court's ruling to ban pride parades in Moscow until 2112 on June 7.
Moscow's city hall has banned Pride parades for the past seven years.
The European Court of Human Rights pronounced those bans illegal in 2010, according to Human Rights First.
To counter Russian officials' recent legislative moves, Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev filed requests for a Pride Parade for the next 102 years, according to media reports. His requests were denied by Moscow government officials.
Innokenty Grekov, a human rights activists working in Human Rights First's anti-discrimination program, wasn't surprised at the ban, but said in a statement on June 7 that "Russia's society is evolving at a pace not even [President] Vladimir Putin can control."
Recent bans on so-called LGBT propaganda spreading throughout the nation and the 100-year prohibition on Pride parades only shows that the "Russian government remains behind the times," he said in the statement.
This past week the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival that toured three different Siberian cities – Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, and Tomsk – was the scene of anti-LGBT unrest. Youths threatened organizers and participants to the point that the festival was forced to shut down to protect filmgoers and organizers, according to news releases on June 4 and 7 from the organization.
The three-day LGBT film festival that kicked off its third year in Kemerovo June 1 was able to screen films after moving the location several times due to demonstrators and police harassment, but its planned three-day tour in two other cities was cut short due to increasing threats, according to the releases.
Manny de Guerre, founder and director of Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival, pointed out that in the five-year history of the festival the degree of threats and violence from orthodox extremists and nationalists hasn't been so heightened, nor the lack of authorities' interest so "unprecedented."
Alekseev and de Guerre vowed to take their individual battles to Russian courts all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch called upon the European Union to take up the human rights violations in Russia at its EU-Russia Summit in St. Petersburg that began on June 1.
Congratulating Russia on its National Day on June 11, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made no mention of Russia's human rights violations against its LGBT citizens' in an official statement released from the department that same day.
Rainbow wedding bells might be heard in Demark very soon
LGBTs in Demark might be able to walk down the isle with their beloved Friday, June 15 after a historic landslide vote in the country's parliament.
On June 7, Demark's Parliament voted 85-24 to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage and open the registry as soon as this week when the new law goes into effect.
This made the Nordic country the eighth European nation and the 11th country in the world to usher in marriage equality.
The law also allows couples to have church weddings with the caveat that churches can decline marrying same-sex couples.
Couples currently in civil partnerships, which the country was one of the first in the world to allow in 1989, will automatically be granted marital status.
Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or firstname.lastname@example.org.