Astonishment at BBC 'should gays be executed?' debate

By agency reporter
December 18, 2009

Astonishment and anger was expressed by viewers on Wednesday after the BBC News Channel hosted an online debate - "Should homosexuals face execution?" - on its website.

The debate was initiated on Wednesday 16th December. Following protests, the title of the debate was changed to "Should Uganda debate gay execution?" But the opening sentence of the text below still read: "Should homosexuals face execution?"

The debate was about legislation before the Ugandan parliament that would introduce the death penalty for people who commit repeated homosexual acts.

"I think it perfectly reasonable for the BBC to host a debate about the current Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but not in the terms that it was framed," said Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and spokesperson for the LGBT equality group, OutRage!

"The BBC would not hold online debates such as: Should Jews be exterminated? Was the Rwandan genocide justified? Should the people of Darfur be massacred? Is it right to stone women to death in Somalia?" added Mr Tatchell.

He commented: "The BBC's commentary announcing the debate put a very weak case against the execution of lesbian and gay Ugandans. It read like an open invitation for homophobic endorsements of the state-sponsored killing of gay people.

"It is a good thing to promote awareness and debate about this vile legislation, even if it means giving homophobes an opportunity to air their prejudice and hatred.

"We have to acknowledge that violently homophobic views still exist in many parts of the world, even in Britain. Bringing this homophobia into the open is a wake up call. It usefully jolts liberal-minded people out of their complacency.

"Engaging bigoted views in debate is the best way to change them, or at least to change some of them. Challenging and refuting homophobic ignorance is the key to overcoming it.

"Closing down debates and censoring people is dangerous. It threatens free speech and drives hatred underground, where it cannot be countered," said Mr Tatchell.

See the BBC Have Your Say Africa website here:

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