A Ugandan gay rights activist who sued a local newspaper for publishing his name on the list of the nation's “top homosexuals” was bludgeoned to death on Wednesday, Jan 26. David Kato was murdered in his home near the capital city of Kampala.

Kato was a prominent activist with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). He was a leader in challenging the proposed government anti-homosexuality bill, which called for the death sentence for some homosexual acts.

Kato frequently spoke out about fearing for his life. His death is a setback for the human rights community and has triggered reactions from gay Ugandans living in Canada.

George Ssemukuutu, chairman of the Pride Uganda Alliance International (PUAI), says that Kato’s death underlines the dangerous situation under which many gay and lesbian Ugandans live.

“I have always been worried for vocal activists like David Kato who were in the spotlight,” says Ssemukuutu. “Others before him ended up leaving Uganda for fear of their lives.”

Ssemukuutu says that PUAI is increasingly concerned about the violence faced by sexual minorities in Uganda and the inadequate protection they receive. Non-activists and closeted gays are increasingly desperate and traumatized. Ssemukuutu adds that they are the silent voices and their deaths go unnoticed.

In November 2010, PUAI sent two witnesses to speak on the plight of gay Ugandans before the Commons subcommittee on international human rights, part of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

The witnesses asked the committee to press the Canadian government to grant group resettlement for 200 Ugandan refugees.

In December 2010, the committee met again and decided that it would resume its enquiries into the treatment of sexual minorities in Uganda at the beginning of February 2011.

“There is really an urgent need for a humanitarian response to violations of human rights,” writes Ssemukuutu in an email to Xtra. “I am yet to learn of a positive outcome from the study on sexual minorities in Uganda from the parliamentary committee, and the way forward by the Canadian government.”
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