This post was written by Hatchet reporter Ian Redman
Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha lives in constant danger.
Still, his fight for sexual equality is relentless.
“The things I have to deal with everyday in Uganda, my fellow gays and transgenders who come to me seeking support, walking through prisons and talking, talking to someone who is about to commit suicide and helping them; that is where I get my courage,” Mugisha told a crowd of students Wednesday. “That is where I get my motivation.”
The 29-year-old LGBT defender and leader of the underground organization Sexual Minorities of Uganda said he strives for people across the world to regard gay rights as human rights.
“The issue of those LGBT rights is not special rights or any kind of different rights but should be the same as all the rights in the world,” Mugisha said. “We need to look at the struggle in Uganda as not only a struggle in Uganda, but as a global struggle.”
Mugisha received this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award on Nov. 10 – the first to be awarded for LGBT advocacy.
The gay rights defender garnered the international attention during his organization multi-year battle to shelve the country’s infamous “anti-gay” legislation. The bill – that includes the death penalty or life imprisonment for homosexual behavior – re-entered parliamentary debates last month.
In October 2010, a Ugandan tabloid included Mugisha in a list of the nation’s 100 most prominent homosexuals with the headline: “Hang them.” His colleague David Kato, who was also identified, was brutally murdered this January.
“Everyday I wake up and want to make a change, and end that violence,” Mugisha said.
While every homosexual in Uganda is a target for violence, Mugisha said receiving this award made him even more visible. He said it also provided greater protection because the government knows people are keeping an eye on him.
Mugisha said the strong homophobia in Uganda is a product of American Evangelists in the East African nation, as well as the lack of understanding about the LGBT community.
Seven student organizations co-hosted the event, which included an introduction from Timothy Kane, director of the GW’s LGBT resource center, who lauded the importance of Mugisha’s efforts.