The David Kato Vision & Voice Award will be presented annually, on Human Rights Day (10th December), to an individual who demonstrates courage and outstanding leadership in advocating for the sexual rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, particuarly in enviroments where these uinduvidual face continued rejection, marginalization, isolation and persecution.
The award will be accompanied by a one time grant of US$10,000.
David Kato, the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda was one of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists until January, when he was murdered in his home weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed.
Along with other Ugandan gay activists, Kato had reported increased harassment, when a high court judge granted a permanent injunction against the Rolling Stone tabloid newspaper, preventing it from identifying homosexuals in its pages.
Late last year, Kato had been pictured on the front page of an issue carrying the headline “Hang Them”. He was one of the three complainants in the court case.
“Since the ruling, David said people had been harassing him, and warning they would ‘deal with him,'” Julian Pepe Onziema, a close friend and fellow gay rights activist, said.
“We were due to meet to discuss security arrangements, but he said he did not have money to get to town. A few hours after we spoke, his phone was off.”
Human Rights Watch said it was too early to speculate why Kato had been killed, but added that there were serious concerns about the level of protection of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Kampala.
Maria Burnett, the Uganda researcher for Human Rights Watch, urged a “real and substantive investigation” into the murder.
News of Kato’s murder came after a lesbian due to be deported from Britain to Uganda said she feared she would be killed if she was returned.
Brenda Namigadde, 29 – who fled Uganda in 2003 after being threatened over her relationship with her Canadian partner – is being held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
She told the Guardian Newspaper: “I’ll be tortured or killed if I’m sent back to Uganda. They’ve put people like me to death there. Most of my friends in Uganda have disappeared.”
Her initial asylum claim was rejected, in part on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence that she is a lesbian.
Ugandan society is, in general, homophobic – but in recent years the anti-gay feeling has been stoked by religious leaders, a group of US evangelicals and politicians.
In 2009, MP David Bahati introduced the anti-homosexuality bill, which calls for gay people to be imprisoned for life. Repeat offenders would face the death penalty, while Ugandans would be required to report any homosexual activity within 24 hours or face police action themselves.
Widely condemned internationally, the bill remains before parliament. Kato, human rights activist, was murdered in his home in Kampala, Uganda on 26 January 2011.
In recognition of his life and courage, and the continued struggle of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals around the world, partners committed to eliminating violence, stigma and discrimination have established the David Kato Vision & Voice Award.
Inspired by his work, the award recognizes the leadership of individuals who strive to uphold the numerous dimensions of sexual rights for LGBTI people. Sexual rights are an evolving set of entitlements related to sexuality that contribute to the freedom, equality and dignity of all people, and are an important aspect of human rights. The realization of these rights is also an integral element to a meaningful HIV response among these marginalized groups.
Why is this important?
The freedom to enjoy and express our sexuality is an integral facet of life, happiness and well-being. Yet, over 70 countries continue to criminalize same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults, adding a complex dimension to realizing the sexual rights of individuals.
Stigma, discrimination and violence towards LGBTI people, and repressive laws that criminalize same sex consensual acts, undermine access to sexual health and HIV-related services and cause many to hide their same-sex relationships. Even where this is not illegal, real or perceived homophobia among health workers can make individuals reluctant to access services.
To find out the situation in your country, visit the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).