Reports: Gay Man Beaten, Burned to Death by Mob in Africa

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 11, 2011

In a horrific episode anti-gay violence, a gay African man has been beaten by a mob and then set on fire, reports say.

The exact location of the man's assault and gruesome killing was unclear, but Unicorn Booty, which broke the story in the U.S. on Oct. 10, said that various reports suggested the incident took place in Uganda.

Though many African nations are characterized by extreme homophobia both socially and legally, Uganda ranks as one of the worst places to be gay. A "death to gays" bill has been before that nation's parliament for a year. The bill, sponsored by lawmaker David Bahati, who has ties to anti-gay American evangelicals, sparked an international outcry when it was first proposed.

Under the bill's provisions, gay men would be executed for repeated sexual encounters with other men. HIV-positive men would face death after only one sexual encounter, a penalty that HIV-positive heterosexual men do not face for intimate contact with women. The bill also provides steep penalties for those who may know of a gay relationship but do not report it to authorities.

Unicorn Booty cautioned that there was little in the way of hard information, however: "[W]e've seen no evidence locking down a location or even a name for this poor man," the report stated.

The report included a video, stamped prominently with the logo "WorldStarHipHop," that showed a man lying in a street and clutching his head, his shirt bloodied, as a crowd milled around him. The attack, obviously already in progress, continued as the man was kicked and berated.

Then the unthinkable happened: A man wearing a motorcycle helmet put a tire around the man's neck and doused him with a flammable liquid. As the victim struggled, members of the mob kept replacing the tire. Then someone lit the victim, who leapt to his feet and began running.

As the burning man ran, others in his path also started to run, lest they be set on fire. The mob pursued the burning man along the street. The flames quickly died out, and the mob resumed kicking and punching the victim, who fell to the ground once more.

As cars and motorcycles made their way through the thick of the violence, someone hurled a table, striking the victim; a man then took hold of the table and clubbed the victim over the head again and again. Someone else brought the tire. Another man clubbed the victim with a board. Others piled bits of wood onto him, and someone set the man and wood ablaze once more. This time, the man's body was completely enveloped in fire: He attempted to run, but collapsed after only a few steps. The mob gathered around his flaming, writhing form, taking pictures and piling burning rubble and more wood on top of him. The victim's final struggles lasted only a few moments before he became still.

The entire video lasted 4 minutes and 23 seconds.

Unicorn Booty warned readers that the video was graphic in the extreme. "You will cry. You will want to throw up. You won't make it through the video," the posting read.

"It's graphic and disgusting and the saddest thing we've ever seen," the article continued. "But this man was reportedly one of us, and nobody even seems to know his name.

"How could a man be turned into his own funeral pyre by dozens of hateful attackers somewhere in our world without anybody even knowing where it all went down?"

Others in the LGBT online press expressed similar anguish.

"While this video is from Africa--and few details are available about it other than that--it could be just about anywhere even in the United States," noted LezGetReal in an Oct. 10 article. "It could come from anywhere where hatred of lesbians and gays runs rampant and human life is devalued because of the differences between people."

Though the brutality and viciousness on display are not in question, online sources pointed out that nothing is known for sure. "There's no real context to the video, so it's not entirely clear whether the man was killed solely for homosexuality," 100gf/| Politics and Computers reported on Oct. 11.

"This kind of killing has a fairly established history in Africa, not only due to homophobia," the article continued. "Nevertheless, the video is being widely reported as evidence of an attack on a gay man."

The video's content is extremely violent and graphic. Readers are strongly advised to take this into consideration before viewing the footage.


Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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