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Activist warns: African gay rights risk

Death penalty proposed for homosexuals in Uganda: Just part of a wider problem of African homophobia, argues sexual minorities advocate at a University of Copenhagen talk

Lesbian, gays, bisexual and transsexuals (LGBT) face harsher and harsher restrictions on their daily life in Uganda and in many other African countries.

This is according to Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, who visited the University of Copenhagen last week to lecture at the Centre of African Studies.

Students, lecturers and researchers from all faculties filled the auditorium to engage with the topic of ‘Homophobia in Africa’. The issue has received renewed urgency since the so-called Anti-Homosexuality bill has been tabled by decision makers in Uganda.

In Africa: Homosexuality ‘from the West’

The bill, introduced by a Member of Parliament in 2009, goes further than any other law by proposing the death penalty for being gay.

Frank Mugisha shared his personal experience of how it is to live as an openly homosexual man in a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people suffer brutal attacks, yet cannot report them to the police because of the fear of additional violence.

»The actual problem is ignorance and unawareness of homosexuality. Most of the people associate LGBT people simply with sex, which is a taboo to discuss in traditional circles in Africa. People think that homosexuality is just another thing coming from the West and that it cannot become a part of African societies,« he said.

Printed names of gays

The increasing dangers LGBT minorities face has a huge impact on their everyday life: Even simple things such as getting to your workplace is a hazard; something to be concerned about day by day especially since one of the most popular newspapers in Uganda printed a ‘100 gays and lesbians list’ with names, addresses and pictures.

»It is very important that people outside of Uganda are aware of the situation in his country and of the possible risks«, Frank Mugisha said.

»Our task can only be to pressure governments to call for more support for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda. So far the only thing stopping the Bill from being enacted into law was the massive international pressure on Uganda’s government«.

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