Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was found murdered yesterday, just weeks after winning a court case against a local newspaper that had called for Ugandans to “hang” homosexuals.
Kato was an advocacy officer for gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, which published a press release reading:
David was brutally beaten to death in his home today, 26 January 2011, around 2pm. Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender.
David has been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone Magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals. David’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.
Uganda has been in the news for gay rights issues since October 2009, when Member of Parliament David Bahati tabled a bill that would provide for life imprisonment or the death penalty for not only homosexuals but also anyone found to be supporting or promoting gay rights.
The proposed bill has stirred up considerable anti-gay sentiments in Uganda, including the publication by local newspaper Rolling Stone [no relation to Rolling Stone Magazine] of a list of 100 suspected homosexuals and their addresses. Kato was on the list, and his face was on the paper's front page.
Bloggers across Africa are mourning Kato's death and speaking up in support of Uganda's gay community. Sokari of Black Looks writes:
The lives of all Ugandan Kuchus [a term Ugandan gays use to refer to themselves] are now at risk – how will they be protected? Who will protect them? How will there be justice for David? One way is to ensure there is a sincere investigation into his murder including the role played by the homophobia of MPs and religious leaders and what must be done to protect others. Another is to speak about this as widely and as much as possible.
Queeattitude names Kato a “fallen hero” and calls for an end to anti-gay violence:
While this issue has been addressed many a time by a number of bloggers, I think it is time the cloak and dagger games came to a stop. An innocent life has been lost in a grotesque manner. This goes to show how deep-seated the hate for LGBTI persons has become. It is indeed a grave issue that if not addressed might end up justifying the bloodshed of innocent people all because someone holds a different idea on whom they (not you) choose to express their love towards. To kill a fellow human with such savage I think ends up contradicting the same doctrines the anti-gay crusaders purport to stick to. Shame on all of you.
Gay Uganda, who was friends with Kato, writes:
I am in shock.
Literal shock. Just heard that one of our members, a prominent gay activist, an out and out man, who has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement in Uganda, David Kato Kisule was murdered. Dead, a blunt instrument to the skull.
Dead. In Lugazi Hospital at the moment.
What to do? Shock. Shock, shock.
Ugandan news magazine Kampala Dispatch reports that the Ugandan police have denied that Kato's murder was related to his sexuality. The report includes a quote from Giles Muhame, the editor of Rolling Stone:
“If he has been murdered, that’s bad and we pray for his soul,” Muhame said.
“There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay. We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them. We said they should be hanged, not stoned or attacked.”
Thanks for this sobering post Rebekah. Just to note that David Kato’s name was trending worldwide on Twitter more than once today.
This is just dreadful news, very sad.