UN agency calls on Uganda to ensure security of gays after activist's murder

27 January 2011

The United Nations today condemned the murder of a prominent gay activist and human rights defender in Uganda and called on the Government to ensure the security of gays in a country where homosexuality is a crime under existing laws.

According to media reports, David Kato, a primary school teacher and a leading voice against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was beaten to death with a hammer yesterday.

The bill would prohibit homosexual relations and contains provisions for punishing people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. It could also lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any such people they know, including members of their own family, or who overtly supports their human rights.

“I urge the Government of Uganda to conduct a thorough investigation into his death, as well as to ensure adequate security for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens,” Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibé said in a statement, voicing deep sadness at Mr. Kato's death.

The UN, including UNAIDS and many development partners, have called on the Ugandan Parliament to drop the bill and to decriminalize same-sex behaviour. Last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for the complete and universal decriminalization of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in some 80 countries, stressing that human rights must always trump cultural attitudes and societal strictures.

A year ago UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that the “draconian” bill would bring Uganda into a “direct collision” with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination.

Mr. Kato's death comes days after the High Court of Uganda ruled that the constitution protects the right to dignity and privacy for all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation. Specifically, it ruled that inciting violence against people based on their sexual orientation threatens their right to human dignity.

This ruling came from a case against a local publication that had published a photograph of Mr. Kato and others, urging citizens “to hang them because of their sexual orientation.

“UNAIDS denounces homophobia and actions that incite violence against individuals and communities... [and] believes that such laws are discriminatory and create obstacles for people accessing HIV services,” today's statement said.


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