Imagine waking up one morning and seeing your image plastered all over print and social media under headlines that label you a lesbian and accuse you of abusing women on your sports team.
This recently happened to Faridah Bulega, head coach of the Ugandan national women’s soccer team. Bulega says her attempts to expose cases of sexual assault on one of the teams in the women’s league resulted in her being targeted by male colleagues. They painted her as a predator who took advantage of a younger female player. Now, in a country where it is dangerous to be gay, her life has been turned upside down by the media attention
This is not an isolated incident. As the equality and non-discrimination program officer at Chapter Four Uganda, I am occasionally presented with similar cases that are less public than Bulega’s, but where individuals perceived to be LGBT are subjected to blackmail, extortion, gross invasion of privacy, unfair treatment, and discrimination in the workplace. Their accusers benefit from a media environment that castigates LGBT individuals without much concern for the truth.
When it comes to news stories involving perceived LGBT individuals, the Ugandan media rarely seeks the facts of a case but instead engages in sensationalism. There are no ethical considerations of the dangers of outing someone as LGBT, nor is there any effort to allow the subjects of these stories to speak for themselves. In all the reports that the media published about Bulega’s alleged misconduct, for instance, none sought out her response. (Bulega gave permission for her story to be used in this article.)