A death foretold

David Kato (right) at Copenhague Pride 2010

On Wednesday 26 January, I was at a meeting in Brussels with other Amnesty colleagues from across Europe. It was there that I heard the news that David Kato had been brutally murdered.

David was well known to Amnesty. He was the advocacy officer for the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda and was a champion of LGBT rights. He had been calling for the authorities to take action to end discrimination against LGBT people in Uganda, particularly in tabloid newspapers which have been publishing the names, pictures and personal details of people they believe to be LGBT.

In 2010, David had visited Amnesty Denmark and attended Copenhagen Pride with Helle Jacobsen, AI Denmark’s Discrimination Campaigner. Like all of us, Helle was visibly shocked at the news – David had been in touch with her several times recently and told her he was afraid and she had asked the Danish Foreign Ministry to urge the Ugandan authorities to protect David. Now its sadly too late.

Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is a serious problem in Uganda, where the police carry out arbitrary arrests of men and women who they suspect have sex with persons of the same sex. In recent years, there has been increased campaigning against homosexuality in Uganda, led by churches and anti-gay groups. The media have joined this campaign, and have publicly pointed to individuals they accuse of being gay or lesbian. People suspected of being gay have faced death threats and been physically assaulted. Many have been ostracized by their families or faced discrimination, including dismissal from their place of employment.

Frank Mugisha, Executive Secretary of Sexual Minorities Uganda told Amnesty in November 2010 “All this homophobia comes from ignorance. The fact that there’s no space for discussion, no space for understanding, that’s why some of these government officials don’t understand the LGBT issues.”

Here’s a link to Frank’s interview with Amnesty

In October 2009, an “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was drafted although it has not yet been passed by parliament. If adopted, it could lead to homosexuals being sentenced to death. Amnesty International has called on the government of Uganda and the Ugandan parliament to reject this bill and to review existing laws that criminalize homosexuality.

As Frank said “The only way to honor David’s death is winning the fight for justice and equality. David is gone, many of us will follow him, but we will win eventually. David’s dream was Uganda, where all are treated equally despite their sexual orientation.

Please send a message of remembrance for David Kato and solidarity to LGBT organisations in Uganda.

This is a blog post from our campaigner Clare Bracey

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