In a country where gays and lesbians are forced into exile, where they live in fear of discovery, the courage of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is extraordinary. The young LGBTI-rights activist continues to campaign for an end to homophobia in Uganda, despite knowing she could be killed for her courage.
Homophobia is vicious in Uganda. In 2009 Member of Parliament David Bahati proposed a bill that has come to be known as “Kill the Gays”. In it he proposed the death sentence for anyone who had sex with someone of the same gender or with anyone who was under-age or disabled. International pressure after the murder of gay activist David Kato led to the bill’s being allowed to expire in 2011.
In November 2012 Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament, revived the bill, substituting imprisonment for death but retaining most of the original bill’s language. A month later Pope Benedict offered Kadaga his blessing when she visited the Vatican. Unfortunately, that small act was not an isolated gesture. America’s right-wing Christians have long been instrumental in fomenting anti-gay sentiment in Uganda.
In spite of the risks of coming out, in 2003 Kasha founded Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), with this vision:
A society in which the freedom, rights and equality of Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and intersex (LBTI) people are guaranteed and there is no discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity.
What FARUG calls for is a simple matter of human rights and social justice, yet only those Ugandans with incredible courage dare speak out for it. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is one of those people. Her bravery and determination give me hope for change in that country.
Ugandan LGBTI people must not stand alone. The West has played a role in the country’s descent into rabid homophobia. We must stand with Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and the brave activists who dare join the fight for justice.
The video below is a moving introduction to Kasha’s work. It was prepared in conjunction with her being honoured with the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.