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Notwithstanding its persecution of gay men and lesbians, Uganda has been chosen by Lonely Planet as its top travel destination for 2012. The travel guide publisher acknowledges that "Human rights abuses are not uncommon" in Uganda, but its "inhouse travel experts" nevertheless recommend the country for this honor "based on topicality, excitement, value and that special X-factor." Lonely Planet's insensitivity to the suffering of gay men and lesbians in Uganda is nothing less than shameful.
Lonely Planet, which is owned by BBC Worldwide, is the world's largest publisher of travel guides, producing both digital and print publications, as well as television travel programs. The company is a giant player in the tourist industry. Hence, its choice of Uganda as a top travel destination is significant and has important repercussions.
Their choice says very plainly that the abuse of the human rights of homosexuals is not an important concern. The murder and beating of gay activists, the fomenting of homophobia by U.S. Evangelical Christian anti-gay activists, and the condemnation of the country by leading human rights organizations for its abuse of its glbtq citizens--these apparently count for little or nothing to Lonely Planet.
It is not as though Lonely Planet is unaware of the terror under which gay men and lesbians in Uganda live or that the infamous "kill the gays" bill awaits action in the nation's legislature.
Indeed, when challenged by a commenter about the choice, the editor of Lonely Planet's website responded as follows:
"We chose Uganda for the experiences that it can offer to travelers, separate from its current political situation.
"To be very clear: we are aware of, and condemn, Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill. We hope that travellers do not judge the country in general, and most of its people, by the sentiments of its government. Many destinations across the world have political and human rights issues and travel often can raise awareness of these issues."
The editor apparently thinks that the fact that they knew of the "kill the gays" bill and chose Uganda anyway is some kind of defense. In fact, it makes the choice all the worse. One can more readily excuse ignorance than indifference.
Equally disturbing is the implication in this editor's statement that the murder of David Kato in January of this year and the terrorizing of other gay activists, such as Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who recently received the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders Award, can simply be dismissed as part of Uganda's "current political situation."