By Malissa Rogers
A Ugandan court released British play producer David Cecil on bail Monday, after he spent three days in prison for staging a play about a gay businessman.
“When I spoke to him today as he was getting released, physically he was okay, but I think psychologically he was a bit tortured,” Cecil’s friend and Ugandan civil rights attorney Godwin Buwa told ABC News.
Authorities arrested Cecil last Thursday, claiming that he had violated the Uganda Media Council’s order, by staging two performances of “The River and the Mountain.” The play, written by Beau Hopkins, depicts a Ugandan businessman who is disowned by his family and murdered by his own employees after revealing that he is gay.
Cecil plead not guilty, but his passport was confiscated. If convicted he could serve up to two years in prison. Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lukodo, has said that he may pursue the actors in the play as well, according to the BBC.
The Uganda Media Council said that the court found the play to be “obnoxious” with “violence towards persons of homosexual behavior and indeed implicitly promotes a deification of such persons,” according to the Ugandan Daily Monitor.
Homosexual acts are a crime in conservative Uganda and law makers are currently considering a harsher sentence of life imprisonment. In 2009, a politician proposed increasing the punishment to the death penalty, calling the crime “aggravated homosexuality.” In recent history, Uganda’s newspapers have sought to “out” hundreds of gay people.
Although the play exposes a real issue that gay people are faced with every day in Uganda, Cecil has told media outlets that he is not a gay activist; he only intended to contribute a piece of drama for the theater.
“The content of our play is actually very mild. We don’t have any explicit reference to sex of any kind really. There’s no swearing. There’s no violence on stage. We actually deliberately constructed the narrative of the drama so that it would be family friendly, so that anyone could come and enjoy it. It’s a comedy drama,” Cecil told Radio France International.
Cecil has lived in Uganda with his girlfriend and two children for more than two years and currently manages a theater and bar in the country’s capital of Kampala.
“Being a foreigner, the whole thing about homosexuality being seen as a foreign practice being pushed on Uganda, he may be looked at as an agent of Western influence bringing homosexuality to Uganda,” said Buwa.