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Gay History Month – David Kato, Ugandan LGBT Rights Activist … by Owen Keehnen

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Kuchu_David_KatoDavid Kato – Ugandan LGBT Rights Activist

Another hero of mine is a prime example of the need for concern about LGBT rights worldwide, and the bravery of those who have risked it all for the cause. Ugandan born activist David Kato came out when he went away to school in Johannesburg. After returning to Uganda he came out publicly at a news conference and was beaten and jailed for his openness.

In 2004 Kato was a founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an organization fighting for the rights of LGBT people in the nation. At about this time fundamentalist Christian groups funded and sent missionaries to the country who preached to the Ugandans that homosexuality was an even greater threat to their society. Conditions for LGBT people in the country worsened and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill aka the Kill the Gays Bill was introduced. Kato continued his activism, even speaking at the United Nations about the increasingly hostile climate in his country.

In 2010 the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone printed the names and home addresses of several prominent LGBT activists in the country under the headline, “Hang Them!” Kato and others named in the article sued and the Chief Justice ruled against the Rolling Stone.

However, in 2011, shortly following the ruling, Kato was found bludgeoned to death in his home. The act was ruled random and then the result of a personal disagreement. Activists worldwide were suspicious and called for further investigation, but to no avail. At Kato’s funeral, his family, friends, and co-activists wore t-shirts bearing his picture on one side and the apt phrase La Luta Continua (The Struggle Continues) on the other.

As we move forward in the fight for LGBT civil rights it is stories such as David Kato’s which make it evident that this is a global issue and that our history is one filled with countless acts of bravery. It is out duty to be vigilant that their sacrifice was not made in vain.

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