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Uganda drops charges against producer of gay play

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Uganda drops charges against producer of gay play

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The case against British theatre producer David Cecil, who faced charges over a play featuring a gay character, has been thrown out of a Ugandan court, the BBC reports.

Cecil, who was arrested in September for putting on the play The River and the Mountain without authorization, told the BBC that the case was dismissed for either a "lack of will or a lack of evidence" against him. According to the report, Cecil, who faced up to two years in jail if convicted, says that while he is happy about the outcome, the matter could still be reopened.

He also told the BBC that he won't stage the play again because cuts ordered by the Media Council would "disembowel" the production. 

The River and the Mountain, by British playwright Beau Hopkins, was reportedly performed about eight times in small theatres before authorities banned it for "implicitly promoting homosexual acts . . . contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda," Gay Star News reports. 

Directed and performed by Ugandans, the play, which tells the story of a gay businessman killed by his own employees, stirred up controversy not only because of its "sympathetic portrayal of gay people, but also because it suggests that much of the anger and hatred has been whipped up by politicians and religious leaders for their own purposes," The Guardian noted.

Hopkins told The Guardian he hoped the play would inspire discussion about homosexuality among those who saw it and in the media. But the local media "seemed to have agreed not to talk about it," he said. 

Meanwhile, the saga of the country's anti-homosexuality bill, which reportedly still includes the death penalty, is set to continue when parliament reconvenes in February. 

As the new year opened, a number of religious leaders demanded that Ugandan MPs expedite passage of the so-called Kill the Gays bill, adding that they risk losing their seats if they bow to international pressure against the measure, Gay Star News (GSN) reports. 

The leader of the Born Again Faith Federation of Uganda, Joseph Sserwadda, reportedly said the anti-gay legislation "was needed urgently and should top the parliamentary agenda in 2013."

"We ask Members of Parliament (MPs) to stop wasting time debating the bill but simply pass it to save school-going children, who are at risk of being recruited," Bishop David Kiganda, of Christianity Focus Ministries, reportedly told a stadium crowd.

Gay rights activist Frank Mugisha, of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), told GSN that the speed with which the bill comes up for debate would depend on whether parliament was recalled to debate other unrelated urgent matters in the coming days and weeks.

Landing image: Gay Star News

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