Uganda gay activist honoured for human rights work

Ugandan gay activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the founder of Freedom and Roam Uganda, is to receive the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Hans Thoolen, the jury chairman, described Ms Nabagesera as "an exceptional woman of a rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity and the rights of homosexuals and marginalised people in Africa".

Ms Nabagesera has appeared on national television and radio and issued press statements to call for an end to homophobia on behalf of Uganda's gay community.

However, because of threats to her safety she must now move "from house to house, afraid to stay long in the same place".

The award comes after troubled times for the gay community in Uganda.

In January 2011, Ms Nabagesera's colleague David Kato was murdered soon after suing a paper that outed them both as gay, although police denied the killing was because of his sexuality.

Three months before the murder, Uganda's Rolling Stone tabloid newspaper published photographs of several people it said were gay with the headline "Hang them."

In October 2009, MP David Bahati introduced a bill that proposed increasing the penalties in Uganda for homosexual acts from 14 years in prison to life, although he has recently said that if the committee studying the bill recommends the death penalty be removed, he "would concede."

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders is named after the late British lawyer who became the first head of Amnesty International.

The award was created in 1993 and is granted annually to someone who has demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means.

It represents a unique collaboration among ten of the world's leading human rights NGOs, who form the jury, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights.

The Ceremony will take place in the Victoria Hall in Geneva later in the year.

Date: 04 May 2011


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