Aired on BBC 3 14th February 2011
Scott Mills travels to Uganda where the death penalty could soon be introduced for being gay. The gay Radio 1 DJ finds out what it’s like to live in a society which persecutes people like him and meets those who are leading the hate campaign.
Link to the BBC site for the programme:
Review from The Independent (includes spoilers)
BBC3 offered The World’s Worst Place to Be Gay. How do you get more people to watch your documentary? Give it a teasing title, clearly intended to grab floating viewers by piquing their interest. Gosh, where could it be, the world’s worst place to be gay? Afghanistan? China? North Korea? Tunbridge Wells?
It turns out to be Uganda, at least according to the Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, who is himself gay. He went to Kampala and indeed found plenty of depressing evidence of institutionalised homophobia, and this was before the murder last month of the Ugandan gay-rights activist David Kato. Africa generally is becoming a dangerous place to be openly gay — no fewer than 37 African countries have declared homosexuality illegal — but Uganda is evidently the most dangerous, with a prominent politician called David Bahati championing legislation — bluntly called the Anti-Homosexuality Act — which would introduce life imprisonment for people found “guilty” of same-gender sex, and the death penalty for “serial offenders”.
If only this represented the ranting of a right-wing zealot, out of step with public opinion. In fact, Mills found perfectly bright schoolchildren who are likewise of the view that homosexuality is an “abomination”, and met a newspaper editor who insisted that it reduces the human lifespan by 24 years. A young lesbian told him that she had been raped in an attempt to cure her of her orientation, yet far from curing her, the rape left her pregnant and HIV-infected.
All this is a relatively recent phenomenon, apparently visited upon Africa by the growing influence there of American evangelists. And where angry shouting doesn’t work, glib humour is deployed. “In the beginning it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” offered a panellist on a phone-in radio show.
Trying to tackle this bigotry was obviously going to be well beyond Mills and his producer Chris Alcock (whose end-credit, though I probably shouldn’t admit it, at least generated a smile at the conclusion of what was otherwise a thoroughly disheartening hour of television). But I’d like to have seen them try a little harder to state the case for tolerance and rationality. Instead, our engaging presenter’s tactic was mainly to throw up his hands in horror, and turn to the camera for solidarity.
He was also, I think, rather disingenuous in presenting modern Britain as the antithesis of Uganda. In many ways it is, but it’s not as though homophobia is unknown here, nor is it so many years since David Copeland let off his murderous nail-bomb in Old Compton Street. Still, this was a brave and enlightening documentary, almost too brave for its own good, in fact, because it concluded with an interview with the witchfinder-general himself, the appalling Bahati, during which our man admitted to being gay. The interview was abruptly terminated, and Mills was lucky to escape the country, if not so much with his life, then certainly with the tapes. We should all be glad that he, and they, made it safely home.
This documentary is owned by the BBC.