Ugandan Gay Activist Speaks at Georgetown
Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha discussed the plight of LGBT people in his East African homeland during an appearance at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
The executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda who received the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights last November spoke at length about the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced in 2009. The provision that would have imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts has since been removed, but the measure itself has been reintroduced.
"When the bill was introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, we were not expecting such an extreme legislation," said Mugisha, who once again blamed American evangelicals for stoking anti-LGBT sentiments in the country before Bahati introduced the bill. "As we tried to survive and ask the Ugandans to let us live in peace, there was a force and there was another organized group that was out to challenge our own humanity and our own living."
This homophobia has often manifested itself in violence against LGBT Ugandans.
David Kato, who was SMUG’s then-advocacy and litigation officer, was beaten to death in his Kampala home in Jan. 2011 after a tabloid published his name and home address. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Ugandan authorities to investigate the crime. A judge last November sentenced Nsubuga "Enock" Sydney to 30 years in prison for the crime.
"In my country, we are talking about homophobia," said Mugisha, framing the persecution of LGBT Ugandans as a human rights issue. He stressed that this homophobia has not only prevented them from working or going to school, but has left them particularly susceptible to violence. "If I’m doing something that’s not hurting someone, then it is my right to do it. If I’m doing something that is hurting someone, then maybe that’s when we need to draw the line and bring in the rule of law. My sexual orientation does not hurt anyone."
The White House in December released a presidential memorandum that directed agencies that carry out American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights. Clinton said during a speech she delivered almost simultaneously at the United Nations in Geneva that gay rights are synonymous with human rights.