In Uganda, they call them "iron-bar killings." It means someone beats you to death with a hunk of metal, like a tire rod, a hammer or a crowbar. Iron-bar killings date back to the reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s, the BBC reports, and they're back now that Uganda has been debating a bill to make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by death.
(David Kato in an AP photo via Human Rights Watch)
Gay-rights activist David Kato became the latest victim of an iron-bar killing yesterday today when he was bludgeoned to death in his Mukono home. Mr. Kato had been shown with other gay Ugandans in an article in that country's Rolling Stone newspaper -- under the headline "Hang Them." The editor of the paper gave the quote above, putting the responsibility to kill on the government. That same editor has now taken to Facebook with a post that demonizes Mr. Kato and blames him for causing his own murder.
Meanwhile the Ugandan legislator responsible for the kill-the-gays bill, David Bahati (TRMS interview), continues to say he'll drop the part about executing gay people. Mr. Bahati has apparently intervened in the case of Brenda Namigadde, a gay Ugandan who's being deported from the U.K. Homosexuality can get you 14 years in prison under current Ugandan law, putting Ms. Namigadde in jeopardy.
"Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour," Mr. Bahati tells the U.K. Guardian. "Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn't want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals." He also promises that she'll be punished if she's "caught in illegal acts." And he's keeping the provision for life imprisonment in his bill.
When we talk about the consequences of violent political rhetoric in the United States, we generally separate the senseless acts of the mentally disturbed from the embarrassing electioneering of those who seek power. In Uganda, the politics themselves are violent. And while we don't yet know why Mr. Kato was killed, we can't so easily cleave the state violence proposed by Mr. Bahati from the very real fear experienced by gay Ugandans.