David Kato was a prominent figure amongst Uganda’s gay rights movement and worked for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). The challenges facing homosexuals in Uganda were brought to the international fore with the proposed introduction of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill which, if enacted, would broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality including the introduction of the death penalty for some same-sex sexual relations. Even without the bill Ugandans have virtually no sexual orientation-related rights. Both male and female same-sex sexual activities are illegal. Gays and lesbians in Uganda face discrimination and persecution in almost all areas of their lives. David himself recounted being beaten on numerous occasions.
In 2009 David came to the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York under the Centre’s Protective Fellowship Scheme. The scheme aims to provide human rights defenders with time away from the often hostile environments in which they work and benefit from the educational resources available. During his time in York David was active within the local community and active in creating greater awareness of the violence experienced within the Ugandan context.
On David’s return to Uganda his name, along with many others, was printed in a Ugandan tabloid newspaper, calling for the execution of all homosexuals. Despite David, and other members of the organisation at which he worked, successfully winning an injunction against the newspaper – threats on David’s life increased.
In January David was murdered in his home in Kampala. Although there has been much speculation over the exact motives of those who committed the murder – there is no doubt that David experienced sustained threats, violence and harassment throughout his life due to his sexual identity. David’s experience of persecution is not isolated. It seems a fitting tribute to David to speak out to promote dialogue and challenge intolerance.
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Suggested websites for further information:
Sexual Minorities Uganda:
Human Rights Watch: