I am sure that David would have loved the attention that his death has generated over gay issues in Uganda.
I know we would have disagreed… again. I don’t believe in martyrs. He believed that to make an omelete, eggs needed to break. Different people, different approaches, different strategies. But, he would not have been the sacrifice for such. A martyr.
I am seeing an outpouring of world attention. But, most important, I am seeing real debate happening in Uganda. Not by the government newspaper…. the New Vision. But, surprise, surprise, by the only other real independent paper. Here are some of the articles.
(NB:, this is Uganda. The press does not discuss homosexuality. Not at all…. not in any way. That is, apart from heavy condemnation, and exhortations to ‘Hang Them’. In fact, far as I remember, the government owned New Vision has had a ban on discussion of that topic for more than a year. So, this is a real big deal. )
World condemns killing of gay activist
The killing of a prominent Ugandan gay rights activist drew worldwide condemnation yesterday as the Uganda police moved to delink homophobia from his death.
Police mounts hunt for killers of Ugandan gay rights activistBut, the real coup de grace is this editorial from the Monitor.
Police’s Scene of Crime officers have ringed off the house in which a gay activist, David Kato was murdered yesterday.
Mr David Kisule Kato, 46, died after he was hit on the head by unknown assailants at his home in Mukono District on Wednesday. He died on his way to Mulago Hospital.
Detectives and scene of crime officers spent the day picking fingerprints on the furniture and interviewing neighbours of Kato.
Police said his attackers hit him with a hammer on the head at around noon on Wednesday before locking him in the house.
Deputy Police Spokesman Vincent Ssekate said they are taking the case seriously but asked the public to who have any information that may lead to the arrest of the suspects to contact them.
“Since the act happened during day, there may be people who saw the suspects entering the house. They should come and give us information,” he said.
In Uganda, even in the independent Monitor, this is a real big deal.
Can we talk honestly about homosexuality?Being who and what I am. I disagree with some of the points made. But, the call to dialogue.... That is what we have been begging for. Just the chance to present our views.
David Kato, a gay rights activist who campaigned against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and who sued a local tabloid last year after it named him as being homosexual, was killed in his home this week.
Police say they are investigating the circumstances of his death and it is not yet clear whether this was a homophobic attack in which Mr Kato was targeted for his sexual orientation or his thoughts about the matter.
Whatever the motive behind the killing, this incident reminds us of the homophobia that is widespread in our country and society – and the deadly consequences of not dealing with it.
Homosexuality is illegal under Ugandan law and the Anti Homosexuality Bill prescribes harsher punishments, including the death penalty for sodomy.
While such legislation might serve as a deterrent, it will not eliminate homosexuality and might cement the discrimination of sexual minorities.
The homosexuality question in Uganda has two major flaws. First is that a lot of the debate is shouted down from extreme positions of moral self-righteousness; as a result there is little common understanding among those who oppose gay rights and those who advocate for them.
Secondly, a lot of the debate is carried out or influenced by foreign actors – both in favour of and against homosexuality.
What we need is an honest national dialogue on homosexuality in order to forge a consensus on the rights of those Ugandans who choose to be gay and those who oppose homosexuality as a lifestyle.
Holding puritanical and extreme views on the matter, whether liberal or conservative, will divide us, rather than help us find a mutually acceptable compromise.
People like David Kato and others who might be gay are Ugandans and enjoy the same rights and protections of the law as heterosexuals. We cannot send them into exile neither, lock them away, or hang them.
We need to have an honest discussion about how to ensure that their rights are upheld without violating the rights of other Ugandans.
Peaceful and stable societies only emerge when we understand and try to accommodate those who are different from us, or who disagree with us – not by ostracising or killing them.
And, yes, we are getting somewhere. Painfully slowly, at a very high cost. But, we are.