Ugandan activist receives RFK Human Rights Award

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Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay rights activist, has been received the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Mugisha is the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, which supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community in the African state.

He is one of the few openly gay activists in the country.

When he spoke to this year about the documentary The World’s Worst Place to be Gay, Radio 1 presenter Scott Mills told said he feared for his own safety as a gay man visiting the country.

The Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was murdered in January. Anti-gay sentiment was reportedly expressed by the pastor presiding over his funeral.

The annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was established in 1984 to honour “courageous and innovative individuals striving for social justice throughout the world”.

RFK Human Rights Award Judge Dean Makau Mutua said: “Frank Mugisha’s unbending advocacy for gay rights in Uganda in the face of deep-rooted homophobia is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit”.

Kerry Kennedy, the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights said the campaigner has “fought courageously in support of the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, despite death threats and even exile”.

She added: “He has become a leading advocate for sexual minorities in a country where they are persecuted, jailed, and their lives destroyed. We are proud at the RFK Center to begin our partnership with Mr. Mugisha to advance his invaluable work within this movement.”

Mr Mugisha said: “For me, it is about standing out and speaking in an environment where you are not sure if you will survive the next day; it is this fear that makes me strong, to work hard and fight on to see a better life for LGBTI persons in Uganda.

“The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award gives me courage and hope that my work, which may not be accepted and recognized in my own country, is making a change with this international visibility.”

Ugandan rights campaigner Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva in October.