Gay individuals and those who were said to be gay in a Uganda tabloid report today could be "at risk in their local community," according to a human rights expert who has watched the anti-gay political movement in the country spread.
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The English-language tabloid Red Pepper published a list this morning of the country's alleged 200 top gay individuals under the headline "Exposed!" just a day after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a sweeping anti-gay bill into law.
"Publishing information about these people certainly puts them at risk in their local communities," said Maria Burnett, Senior Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Whether or not we're going to see violence, it's a possible byproduct of this bill and the rhetoric politicians have been churning out."
"We haven't seen the large-scale vigilante mob attacks that have marked the last couple of months in Nigeria, but we are certainly concerned that could be the case," Burnett said.
The list included some well-known names of activists who have criticized the country's anti-gay laws and worked with gay rights organizations in the country, but it also included less well-known people who have never said publicly they were gay, she said.
"Some of them work with LGBT organizations but some are anonymous. Two hundred people in Uganda is a lot of people, some are just going about their daily lives and there is no reason to believe they are all LGBT. This bill can lead to witch hunts and LGBT propaganda," Burnett said.
The well-known Ugandans accused in the report included a Catholic priest, a hip-hop star, and an activist.
Red Pepper and another tabloid have also published similar lists in the past, she said.
The bill signed Monday criminalizes homosexual acts and threatens life in prison for offenders, but also outlaws the expression of support for gay rights by non-government organizations and advocacy groups, she said.
Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the United States is reviewing its aid policies to Uganda following the bill's passing, which he called "a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights."