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Censorship for tongue kisses

The Ugandan government bans a Dutch film because it contains swear words and sex scenes. And even worse: Uganda’s censorship authorities see hidden advertising for homosexuality in the film.

The censorship authorities meticulously list every inappropriate scene in the film: “Deep tongue kisses in front of children, drinking alcohol, smoking, hot sex scenes, indecent insults like the A-word or the F-word”. It’s about the Dutch film “The Dinner Club”, which is not allowed to be shown at the European Film Festival in the Ugandan capital Kampala. The most important reason for the ban: “The film shows and glorifies homosexuality”.

Uganda’s government is afraid of sex

“The Dinner Club” by director Robert Jan Westdijk is based on the book of the same name by Saskia Noort, which became a bestseller not only in the Netherlands, but also in the USA and Great Britain in 2004. The story: A young couple moves with their pubescent daughter to a noble neighborhood and looks for new friends. The women from the neighbourhood have founded a “Dinner Club” in which they also discuss their intimate secrets. Then two club members suddenly commit suicide. The new daughter gets to the bottom of the club’s secrets.

“This is against our values,” says a letter from the Ugandan media council to the Dutch embassy in Kampala: “The women found a ‘dinner club’, which in reality is a brothel.” For ten minutes women in the film would talk about how hard it is to be married to men. The Media Council concludes that this would indirectly glorify homosexuality.

Homosexuality is illegal in this small country in East Africa. This is punishable by harsh penalties, even for any public “advertisement” for it. In 2009, MPs from the ruling party tabled a bill demanding the death penalty for gays and lesbians. For years, the bill was discussed in parliament. Only after strong international pressure did Uganda’s Constitutional Court reject the draft in 2014. The USA had threatened with sanctions if the law was passed. Since then, the gay debate has become somewhat calmer. Many homosexuals have applied for asylum in the USA and Europe in recent years, especially in the Netherlands.

“Ethics Minister” bans pornography and considers rape natural

Uganda’s population is extremely conservative. The majority is Christian and the churches have enormous influence in society and politics. This manifests itself above all in the so-called Ministry of Ethics and Decency, headed by 59-year-old Minister Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest from a rural region of the country. In recent years, Lokodo has drafted countless laws to uphold Uganda’s values and morals.

His “mini skirt law”, introduced in 2014, was also hotly debated: since then women have had to wear skirts that reach over their knees because otherwise they “stimulate sex” in society, according to the Ethics Minister. Conversely, Lokodo was not afraid to claim in an interview that it was “natural” for men to rape girls. In 2013, Minister Lokodo ensured that an anti-pornography law was passed. For a lot of money the poor country bought software that monitors and tracks Internet users when they watch porn on the net. The law is also used to prosecute homosexuals or opposition members who are critical of the government. Homosexuality is deeply unafrican in Lokodo’s eyes; it was brought in by foreigners from the West, he once explained. “They should go home,” he said about European human rights activists who criticized his laws.

What was meant with the foreigners were mainly Dutch people who had fought for the rights of sexual minorities in the homosexual debate. Apparently Uganda’s government has never forgiven the Netherlands for this – with the ban on the film comes the late revenge. “The Embassy regrets the decision of the Ugandan Media Council and withdraws its participation in the European Film Festival in Uganda,” wrote the diplomats on Facebook, where they also published the letter of the Media Council.

The letter seems like a bad joke. Despite Lokodo, Kampala’s colourful Kabalagala district is known throughout East Africa for its nightclubs, brothels and drug scenes – similar to St. Pauli in Hamburg. Even Congolese or Southern Sudanese from neighbouring countries come to Uganda to get their act together. On the other hand, the “Dinner Club” seems harmless.

About Uganda

Uganda lies in East Africa. First associations extend from the reign of terror of Idi Amin and massacres to the classification as “Pearl of Africa”. The Entebbe airport is also known for the hostage drama surrounding a hijacked Air France plane (“Operation Jonathan”). The south is suitable for tourism, while the north is still struggling.

In the Lake Victoria area, precipitation is 2,000mm per year, in the rest of the country it is 1,300mm on average. In the north the dry season is from December to March, in the south from June to August. The average temperature in Kampala is 22°C.

The country name means “land of the people” and derives from the kingdom of Buganda, which was the strongest power in the region until the end of the 19th century.