Prominent Ugandan human rights activist murdered

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Prominent Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato. Photo courtesy of the Guardian.

David Kato, a prominent human rights activist fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Uganda, died Wednesday on the way to the hospital after a brutal beating in his home. Witnesses reported to police that a man entered Kato’s home and hit him twice in the head, before escaping the scene in a vehicle.

Across the nation, community groups are coming together to condemn Kato’s killing and calling on the Ugandan government, civil society and local communities to protect sexual minorities. U.S. based advocates are calling on the U.S. government to continue its pressure on the Ugandan government to protect the human rights of sexual minorities and to act quickly to bring Kato’s killers to justice.  Critical U.S. government point people on Uganda include U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, David Lanier, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson.

This latest act of brutality is not an isolated incident.  As stated recently by amfAR in a report on men who have sex with men (MSM) and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, “A global wave of homophobic rhetoric and violence is further undermining efforts to combat high rates of HIV/AIDS among MSM.”

Kato had been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of a Ugandan tabloid newspaper, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals, according to a press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a gay rights organization.  Kato’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity.

Early last year, more than 1,400 physicians and other health professionals called on Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in a petition to stop a proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” saying it would violate human rights and undermine public health.  Click here to read the letter. The bill included penalties of life imprisonment for homosexual consensual sex acts and imprisonment for those who did not report those suspected of engaging in homosexual acts to the police within 24 hours. Despite pressure from human rights activists across the world and from other governments, including the U.S., the legislation is still pending before the Ugandan parliament.

SMUG is demanding an impartial investigation and an end to demonization of sexual minorities by religious leaders, political leaders and the media.  SMUG has also requested that people send any statement of remembrance and solidarity to: justicefordavidkato@gmail.com and those statements will be received by the community of LGBTI activists in Uganda.

Meanwhile U.S. HIV advocates still wait for what is perceived to be long overdue program guidance to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program implementers from the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator on HIV interventions for MSM.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has released a statement on the death of David Kato, calling for Ugandan authorities quickly investigate and prosecute those responsible for Kato’s murder.

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