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Posts for January, 2011

“Kato” Means the Younger of Twins

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2011

David Kato (via Facebook)

That’s one thing I learned in a facebook message this morning, and it forms a part of GayUganda’s reaction today to the news that Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato was brutally murdered in his home yesterday. He writes:

We need to celebrate his life. Maybe that will take our minds off the desperate vulnerability of ours…. how quickly, how easily we can lose all, in the name of nothing, or something.But, it is a matter of fact that he lived his life. And, was happy. A gay man in Uganda.

…Maybe for the days when he was still alive to pester us with his demands, his beliefs in what he wanted to have done. He was a doer, and, in a difficult environment, he was an achiever. With scanty resources, he did what he could, and did it fairly well.

Of course he was a human being. Cantankerous, devious, quarrelsome.

But, he was a human being, a fighter, going to the police cells to look for those accused of being gay. Going to court to stand up for our rights.

Kato David Kisule. RIP. Wonder where his twin is.

The worldwide LGBT community is reeling over the loss of a fearless leader.

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone, featuring a photo of David Kato (left) and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (right). (Click to enlarge)

David Kato was a spokesperson as well as the Advocacy and Litigation Officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). He was one of the plaintiffs (or applicants) in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name). Kato was one of three applicants who had been named by the tabloid under a headline tagged “Hang Them!” His photo appeared on the tabloid’s front cover.

Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor reports that David was attacked in his home yesterday afternoon and beaten in the head with a hammer.  Residents told police that they saw a man entering David’s house, and then they saw him leave dressed in David’s shoes and a jacket that covered part of his face. Later, the neighbors became suspicious and went to check on David but found the door locked. After they forced their way in, they found him and rushed him to Mulago Hospital, but he died on the way.

It is not known right now whether his appearance in the tabloid or subsequent court action was related to his murder. The police spokesperson says police are investigating robbery as a motive, saying that items were missing in the home.The BBC reports that there had been several “iron bar” murders in the neighborhood, and that police have arrested several suspects.

But LGBT advocates who worked with him disagree. They note that he, along with several other LGBT Ugandans, had been the target of several death threats in the past few days, particularly in the aftermath of their court victory.

In a press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda, they “call on religious leaders, political leaders and media houses to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons. Val Kalende, the Chair of the Board at Freedom and Roam Uganda stated that “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called U.S Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

LGBT Activists in Uganda point to a virulently anti-gay March 2009 conference put on by three American Evangelical activists for inciting the latest round of violence and intimidation against the local LGBT community. Among the three were Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge, who is a protege of ex-gay advocate Richard Cohen. Lively, who blamed gay men for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, proudly declared his talk as being a “nuclear bomb” against LGBT advocacy in Africa. (You can read about all of the events of 2009 and early 2010 here.)

Later that same year, M.P. David Bahati introduced the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in that nation’s Parliament. That bill, which remains under review Parliamentary committee, would impose the death penalty on LGBT Ugandans under certain circumstances and criminalize all advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people. It would also criminalize even knowing someone who is gay if that person fails to report their LGBT loved one to police within 24 hours. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 18, and the bill is expected to be voted on after Parliament returns for a lame-duck session before the new Parliament begins in May. Bahati has admitted that it is his goal “to kill every last gay person.”

Click here to read Sexual Minorities Uganda’s press release

Ugandan LGBT Advocate Murdered; Had Been Named By “Hang Them” Tabloid

Jim Burroway

January 26th, 2011

David Kato (via Facebook)

We have learned that Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato Kisulle was murdered today at his home in Kampala. Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has confirmed that the David’s body was identified at a hospital.

Update: I have also confirmed this with SMUG’s Pepe Julian Onziema, who identified David’s body in the hospital morgue. Police are investigating.

The details surrounding his murder are unknown at this time. He was reportedly beaten in the skull with a hammer at his home. We do not yet know whether it was a single assailant or a group of people, nor do we know any other circumstances surrounding his death.

Update: More details from Human Rights Watch:

Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato’s home in Mukono at around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle. Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police told Kato’s lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle and were looking for it.

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone, featuring a photo of David Kato (left) and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (right). (Click to enalrge)

David Kato was a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the plaintiffs (or applicants) in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name). Kato was one of three applicants who had been named by the tabloid under a headline tagged “Hang Them!” His photo appeared on the tabloid’s front cover.

LGBT Ugandans have lived under a menacing atmosphere for more than a decade. The anti-gay hysteria has increased significantly since the introduction of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into parliament in 2009. That bill, which remains under review Parliamentary committee, would impose the death penalty on LGBT Ugandans under certain circumstances and criminalize all advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people. It would also criminalize even knowing someone who is gay if that person fails to report their LGBT loved one to police within 24 hours. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 18, and the bill is expected to be considered after Parliament returns for a lame-duck session before the new Parliament begins in May.

This horrendous murder adds to the fears that LGBT Ugandans regularly face over their safety. Brenda Namigadde, a lesbian asylum seeker in the U.K. has been threatened with deportation back to Uganda. Just yesterday, she received an ominous message from M.P. David Bahati, the author of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which he said that Brenda must “repent or reform” when she returns home:

Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.

M.P. Bahati may be technically correct. They are simply killing homosexuals, not harassing them.

David has served as the Advocacy and Litigation Officer for SMUG since 2004, according to his facebook profile. He also attended the University of York where he studied Human Rights.

Update: Mourners are posting messages on David’s facebook wall.

Uganda’s High Court Ruling Against “Hang Them” Tabloid Campaign

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2011

Ugandan High Court ruling barring Rolling Stone from publishing names and addresses of private LGBT citizens (Click to download: 1.3MB/10 pages)

As we reported earlier this morning, Uganda’s high court released a ruling permanently prohibiting the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the venerable U.S. publication by the same name) from continuing its public vigilante campaign against that country’s LGBT community. We now have the text of that ruling (PDF: 1.3 MB/10 pages), which was signed on December 30 by Judge Musoke Kibuuka.

Judge Kibuuka found that the actions of Rolling Stone violated the privacy rights of LGBT Ugandans, and as well as the right to human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment. Of the latter, Judge Kibukka wrote:

Upon that objective test, court would easily conclude that by publishing the identities of the applicants and exposing their homes coupled with the explicit call to hang them because “they are after our kids”, the respondents extracted the applicants from the other members of the community who are regarded as worthy, in equal measure, of human dignity and who ought to be treated as worthy of dignity and respect. Clearly the call to hang gays in dozens tends to tremendously threaten their right to human dignity. Death is the ultimate end of all that is known worldly to be good. If a person is only worthy of death, and arbitrarily, then that person’s human dignity is placed at the lowest ebb. It is threatened to be abused or infringed.

For the objective test, the court cited a Canadian case from 2002, when a man published an advertisement showing four scriptural passages next to an image of two stick men holding hands inside a circle with a line through it. The CBC notes that the decision was overturned by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in 2006. It’s unclear whether the grounds for that 2006 decision would have any bearing on the Ugandan case.

The court rejected Rolling Stones argument that because homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, the applicants were not eligible for protection because they were criminals:

It must be noted that this application is not about homosexuality per se. it is about fundamental rights and freedoms. However, court not agrees that section 145, of the Penal Code Act renders every person who is gay a criminal under that section of the Penal Code Act. The scope of section 145 is narrower than gayism generally. One has to commit an act prohibited under section 145 in order to be regarded a criminal.

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge)

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge)

This point may serve as fodder for those who support the passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. That bill greatly expands the definition of what constitutes homosexual behavior far beyond the sex act. It will also criminalize advocacy on behalf of LGBT people and make criminals of family members who refuse to report their loved ones to police. If that bill were to become law, merely bringing this case to court and arguing in defense of LGBT people could be taken as “promotion” of homosexuality, leading to fines and a sentence of between five to seven years. The bill may be brought to a vote during a lame-duck session of Parliament following the February 18 elections.

The court issued a permanent injunction against Rolling Stone, “their servants and agents, from any further publications of the identities of the persons and homes of the applicants and homosexuals generally.” The order only applies to Rolling Stone, but human rights advocates believe that it may serve as a precedent for other tabloids to follow. Red Pepper and Onion (also no relation to the U.S. satirical newspaper by the same name) have also engaged in vigilante campaigns in recent months.

The judge awarded each applicant 1,500,000 Uganda Shillings (US$650) for damages, plus court costs.

Giles Muhume, Rolling Stone editor, remained defiant in the face of the court ruling. In a press release, he said that “homos had a short-lived smile today” but that Rolling Stone would appeal the decision. Calling the ruling a risk to media freedom, Muhume added, “The newspaper will fight homos on different fronts. Our supporters should remain strong –- the agents of the devil shall be defeated.”

Click here to read the Ugandan High Court’s decision.

Human Rights Watch, Sexual Minorities Uganda Condemn Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2009

Human Rights Watch join sixteen other local and international human rights organizations in condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Act which has been introduced in Uganda’s Parliament. According to the HRW statement:

“This draft bill is clearly an attempt to divide and weaken civil society by striking at one of its most marginalized groups” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The government may be starting here, but who will be next?”

The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.

“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.

Under Uganda’s existing laws, the police arbitrarily arrest and detain men and women accused of engaging in consensual sex with someone of the same sex. Human rights organizations have documented cases of torture or other ill-treatment against lesbians and gay men in detention because of their sexual orientation.

Sexual Minorities Uganda has also circulated a statement condemning the bill. Their statement, which is not yet available on their web site, is reproduced in full below. It contains disturbing news of LGBT Ugandans who had died as a result of the latest anti-homosexuality campaigns sparked by a three-day anti-gay conference last March.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to read the statement from Sexual Minorities Uganda.

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