The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders went to a gay-rights activist this time around. Some church leaders there have criticized the decision to award Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera.
The award, given by the Martin Ennals Foundation in honour of the first Secretary General of Amnesty International, will help the campaign for minority group rights in the East African country, said retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo. “It is appropriate and encouraging … We now know there are people who understand what we are suffering from and support our position,” he said on 6 May in a telephone interview with ENInews.
However, conservative church leaders criticised the award, saying it went to a “disgraceful ground,” where the recipient is not a hero. They have charged that homosexuality is evil; and is rejected by the scriptures and African communities.
“We are outraged … but not surprised. This is a public embarrassment …. There is nothing to celebrate,” said the Rev Martin Ssempa, a Pentecostal pastor, who has been crusading against homosexuality in Uganda. He accused the West of forcing its practices on Africa. “We pray that Kasha is changed so that she can help the other gay people change their ways,” he said.
A tabloid paper there called Rolling Stone recently ran a series promising to highlight the country’s top “homos” :
Two of them, including a gay activist named David Kato, were pictured on the front page, under the words “Hang Them.” Kato, who the paper said “spots [sic] a clean shaven moustache,” took Muhame and Rolling Stone to court, winning an injunction preventing Muhame and the paper from publishing any more pictures or information identifying gays. Three weeks later, shortly before I met Muhame, Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
According to the article, Muhame is considered a crank in some circles, but anti-gay sentiments are certainly running high there; as evidenced by the bill getting debated this week in their parliament.
The original bill included capital punishment for “serial offenders” of homosexuality and for active homosexuals who were in HIV-positive, or for cases of same-sex rape. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life in prison, and anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison, including landlords who rent rooms to homosexuals.
David Bahati, the bill’s author, told the AP last month that the death penalty provision was “something we have moved away from.”
Good, but not good enough. I don’t know if a petition with a million names will have any effect on the end result here, but go ahead and sign it if you want.