An Ugandan court on Monday granted bail to an Oxford-educated British theater producer who was formally charged last week for staging a play depicting gay characters in the Central African nation.
David Cecil has been under police custody after being arrested for staging the play titled 'The River and The Mountain' without authorization last week. The main character in the play, written by Oxford-educated British playwright Beau Hopkins, is a gay businessman who is killed by his own employees.
Cecil was charged Thursday with "disobeying lawful orders contrary to the penal code" and "staging the play while it was still under review." The British producer faces two years in prison if convicted of the charges.
According to Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper, the British producer was freed from the Luzira prison on Monday after he was granted a bail of 500,000 shillings ($200) by the court. Nevertheless, Cecil was ordered to surrender his passport and report back to court on October 18.
A day before Cecil's play premiered in Kampala on August 17, the Uganda Media Council had informed the British producer that the theater performance must not be staged until official "clearance" was obtained. Nevertheless, Cecil and his associates decided to stage the play ahead of receiving authorization.
Cecil was subsequently arrested for "disobeying lawful orders" after the Council ruled that the play should not be staged as parts of the production "implicitly promote homosexual acts," which "are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda."
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under existing laws, and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Ugandan law also makes any individual failing to report a person he or she knows to be a homosexual liable to prosecution.
The Anti-Homosexual Bill in Uganda was first introduced in 2009. The African nation has a very conservative society where sexual preferences such as homosexuality are frowned upon and even considered anti-Christian. Incidentally, homosexuality is illegal in 37 other countries on the African continent.
The Ugandan Parliament is currently considering a tougher version of the Anti-Homosexual Bill which would impose tougher penalties for homosexual acts in the country. The bill was re-introduced in the Parliament earlier this year after the previous version was dropped over a clause that would have imposed death penalty to offenders in certain cases.
The watered down version of the bill introduced in the Parliament in February does not contain the death penalty clause. It, however, recommends enhancing the punishment of gays up to life imprisonment. The bill has evoked severe international criticism.
by RTT Staff Writer
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