Johannesburg. 28 January 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is greatly saddened by the news of the tragic murder of prominent gay rights activist David Kato in Uganda on 26 January 2011. CIVICUS calls upon the government of Uganda to carry out an immediate and independent investigation into the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.
CIVICUS also urges the government to demonstrate due diligence in stopping the ongoing homophobic campaigns and attacks prevalent in many parts of Ugandan society and abandon the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which has been before parliament since October 2009.
David Kato was reported murdered in his own home after suffering several blows to the head. Previous reports indicate that he had faced increasing threats and harassment after his photo appeared on the front page of a tabloid paper that published pictures, names and residential addresses of some members of the gay community in Uganda, under the headline "Hang Them".
While the reasons behind his murder cannot yet be determined, various authoritative reports and testimonies from the ground attest that the authorities offer little protection to gay people and activists. The 2010 human rights report published by Amnesty reveals that in Uganda, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people and rights activists continued to face arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture and other ill-treatment by police and other security personnel. Homosexual conduct is already a criminal act in Uganda in clear violation of international human rights standards. But 2009 saw a further increase of state-sponsored homophobia with the introduction of the proposed 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is still pending, proposes to criminalise all homosexuality, making it punishable by a fine and life imprisonment. Repeat offenders would face the death penalty, while Ugandans would be obliged to report any homosexual activity within 24 hours or face police action themselves. Kato, an advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was one of the leading voices against the legislation.
"Those that are willing to speak out against the discrimination of the gay community are increasingly under attack as the government allows the violation of the human rights of its own people" said Adele Poskitt, Policy Officer at CIVICUS.
The legal system that fails to protect the rights of homosexuals is not restricted to Uganda. There has been a disturbing increase in homophobia in various African countries, with a clampdown and strengthened legislation in criminalising homosexuality in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Swaziland. Even the progressive legislation of South Africa, which bans all anti-gay discrimination, was not able to prevent the death of lesbian activist and national football player, Eudy Simelane in 2008.
With shameless attacks from people within the community and media, condemnation by many of the US evangelical influenced churches and no protection by the authorities, the international community has a huge responsibility to protect the human rights of the gay community and gay activists under attack. CIVICUS calls upon global civil society, the international community, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and other intergovernmental organisations to exert pressure on the Ugandan government to protect the rights of gay people and activists in Uganda and respect the rule of law in the country.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world.