Ugandan gay rights activist wins top human rights award
A prestigious global human rights award was presented in Geneva today to a Ugandan woman who has fearlessly defended the rights of her country’s threatened lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is the winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, awarded annually by 10 of the world’s leading human rights NGOs, including Amnesty International. She is the founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organization Freedom and Roam Uganda.“This award recognizes Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera’s tremendous courage in the face of discrimination and violence against LGBT people in Uganda,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Programme Director. “Her passion to promote equality and her tireless work to end a despicable climate of fear is an inspiration to LGBT activists the world over who face threats, violence and imprisonment on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” The situation for Uganda’s LGBT community is extremely difficult, with numerous documented cases of discrimination, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture and other ill-treatment based solely on sexual orientation and gender identity. Activists who work to expose such abuses are frequently targeted. Under Uganda’s legal system, homosexuality is a criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. A bill proposed in 2009 sought to entrench discrimination and hatred against LGBT people. On 26 January, Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered after the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone published a list of Uganda’s 100 “Top Homos” and called for the people named in the list to be hanged. Nabagesera’s name also appeared on the list. “I’ve lived my life fighting openly for gay rights in Uganda, and I’ve had to pay a price for that,” Nabagesera previously told Amnesty International. “I’ve been evicted from house to house; my office has been evicted; I can no longer move on the streets openly; I’ve been attacked.”Despite the ongoing intimidation and threats against her, Nabagesera has continued to advocate publicly and in the media on behalf of Uganda’s LGBT community, both at home and abroad. Nabagesera is the 20th person to receive the Martin Ennals Award.