An actor who starred in a play which was banned in Uganda because of its gay content says the production has only had a negative effect.
Rehema Nanfuka played a conservative pastor in David Cecil’s The River and the Mountain, which was banned by authorities after only eight performances for ‘implicitly promoting homosexual acts’.
Despite international support for the show about a gay man who is killed by his own employees, Nanfuka believes it actually harmed gay rights in the notoriously homophobic country.
‘I question the effectiveness of discussing homosexuality the way we did,’ she told Radio Netherlands.
‘I had hoped that the play would influence at least some opinions. Yet, of all the people I know, only my mum now slowly starts understanding homosexuality.’
‘I am not sure anymore if the people to whom we are preaching, are interested in change at all.’
The 26-year-old actress added that she thinks the play ‘has only alienated Ugandans further from homosexuals.’
British producer Davic Cecil now faces two years in jail over the play and Nanfuka claims his arrest reinforced for many Ugandans the idea that homosexuality is a Western import.
But co-star Okuyo Joel Atiku ‘Prynce’ insists he would play the role of a gay factory worker again despite all the responses he received being negative.
‘I partook in the play because of the artistic challenge and to drive debate, to make people realize that gay people are part of society too,’ the 28-year-old told the Dutch radion station.
The actor added that it did go some way to breaking down tabboos.
He said: ‘Look at apartheid in South Africa. People persisted in their resistance for decades. Ultimately, it paid off.’
While gay sex is already a crime in Uganda, proposed legislation would see the death penalty introduced.
Although legislators have said the bill could be changed, it currently states anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for the second time would be sentenced to death.
Public discussion of homosexuality, including by rights groups, would be punished by up to seven years in jail.
Cecil’s plight has caught the attention of campaigners around the world, with celebrities including Stephen Fry backing a petition which calls on the Ugandan government to stop his persecution and to uphold the right to freedom of expression.