This day marks the 8th anniversary of one of Africa’s prominent gay rights activists, David Kato.
Kato was murdered in his home in Uganda, just a few weeks after local tabloids plastered his image on the front pages calling for his death for being a homosexual.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and this has placed anyone who dared to identify as one into the regime’s war path. Kato was vocal not only as a gay man but also as a voice for the LGBTQ community in the country, where they faced discrimination, violence and even death.
In a Huffpost interview just weeks before he was killed, Kato highlighted why he stood up for the LGBTQ community.
“There aren’t many people now who are willing to stand up and say they support LGBT rights, but I believe we can find those who are open-minded and show them this is a matter of basic human rights,” Kato said confidently.
Kato came out in 1998, when he returned home from South Africa. His mission was to push for gay rights in his own country. After his televised revelation, he was beaten up by Ugandan police, who broke glass bottles on his head.
He was undeterred. He would continue his fight, rising against the Ugandan government that wanted to pass an anti-homosexuality law that would make their already dire circumstances worse. He co-founded the
Sexual Minorities Uganda to campaign against the bill.
The retaliation was swift. Kato became the subject of local tabloids, with the Rolling Stone (not affiliated to the American magazine of the same name) publishing his image and location and of many others like him with the caption “Hang Them.”
With three others, he sued the paper and was awarded compensation after a judge ruled the publication had violated their constitutional rights to privacy. This was on January 3, 2011.
Just a few weeks later, he was killed. According to the Human Rights Watch, witnesses informed the police that a man entered Kato’s home in Mukono at around 1 p.m., hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle.
Kato succumbed to his injuries on his way to Kawolo hospital.
He was mourned by many including U.S. President Barack Obama who said ‘David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom.’
His death robbed Uganda of a vocal sexual rights and human rights activist that was brave enough to face the regime bent on eliminating them.