When David Kato was murdered in January, he was Uganda’s best known gay rights activist.
That’s a tough mantle to carry. Uganda is not a gay-friendly country.
Kato was murdered not long after suing a paper that named him as gay and calling for violence. The headline said: “Hang Them.”
The Ugandan Penal Code prohibits consensual sex between individuals of the same sex. This May the Ugandan Parliament came close to passing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would have further authorised discrimination against those who are, or who are believed to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and included the introduction of the death penalty for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality”.
With Kato dead, Uganda’s best known gay rights activist today is probably Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the founder and director of gay rights organisation, FARUG, Freedom and Roam Uganda.
Despite ongoing harassment, threats and attacks for her work, Nabagesera has continued to speak out on behalf of Uganda’s LGBT community. The newspaper that named Kato before his death also named Nagabesera. Fears for her personal safety have led her to shift from house to house, never staying too long in the same place. She has also started to venture out of Uganda, to raise the international profile of gay rights in her country.
Earlier this year, Nabagesera was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, named after the former Secretary General of Amnesty.
About ten days ago she was in Amsterdam to address the International Council Meeting of Amnesty International. In a quitely powerful speech, she described the diffculties her members face and asked:
Where does all this homophobia come from? It come from the press. It come from the State. It comes from the cultural and religious institutions.
We are not scared. These are our lives we are fighting for. It’s not eays and we are very aware of that but we cannot afford to sit back there. Because if we sit back there, we shall have lost the battle for human rights.
We are very aware that some of us may never live to see the freedoms and liberties we are fighting for today, but we are just honoured that we are part of this groundbreaking struggle to make a better place for the future generations, not only in Uganda, not only in Africa, but also in the world.
You can hear the rest of her address here:
And you can hear her for yourself on Thursday 25 August at 7:15pm in the Black Box on Hill Street in Belfast as she delivers the Amnesty Pride Lecture. After her lecture, William Crawley will lead a Q&A session with the audience.