KAMPALA, Jan 26, 2012 (AFP) - Ugandan gay rights activists braved hostility
and stigma Thursday as they gathered to commemorate the first anniversary of
the murder of their fellow campaigner David Kato.
"We are here to celebrate and thank God for our beloved friend and human
rights activist David Kato," former Anglican bishop and gay rights campaigner
Christopher Senyonjo told a crowd of around 100 activists and family members.
Kato, former advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was
found bludgeoned to death at his home outside Kampala on January 26, 2011.
In November, a Ugandan court sentenced Enoch Nsubuga, 22, to 30 years in
jail after he admitted beating Kato to death with a hammer. Nsubuga had
claimed he was reacting to to unwanted sexual advances.
Gay rights activists speaking at the event called Kato, 46 at the time of
his death, "the godfather" of the Ugandan gay movement and said that his
passing had left a large void in the life of the country's gay community.
"He always looked out for all of us even at times when we thought it was
too difficult," Frank Mugisha, director of SMUG, said at the function in the
garden of a hotel in central Kampala.
Kato's killing drew worldwide condemnation, coming after a newspaper in
Kampala had published a picture of him in the same issue as a headline
demanding that homosexuals be hanged.
Kato's family members at the event spoke of the support that they had
received from campaigners both in Uganda and the international community
following his death
"It is not easy when a loved one dies but thanks to all the friends inside
and outside Uganda who worked with David ... when I get down they lift me up
and help me," said Nalongo Kisule, Kato's mother.
Homophobia is widespread in Uganda and gay men and women in the country
face frequent harassment and threats of violence. Homosexuality is punishable
by up to life in prison.
A controversial bill that calls for the death penalty for certain
homosexual acts was recently re-introduced in the Ugandan parliament after
lawmakers failed to debate it during the last session of the legislative body.
It brings in the death penalty for anyone caught engaging in homosexual
acts for the second time as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor
or has HIV.
It also proposes to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and
would penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual.
Talking at the memorial event, international gay rights supporters pledged
to help defeat the proposed legislation.
"We will not be crushed by the (anti-gay) bill, we will not be crushed by
other people's fears," John Talton, a pastor from the Fellowship of Affirming
Ministries in the US, said.
Homosexuality is outlawed in many African countries and discrimination
against gays and lesbians is rife on the continent, with South Africa being
the only country that recognises gay rights and same-sex marriage.