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Anger as gay activist beaten to death in Uganda

David Kato was bludgeoned to death in his home with a hammer on 26 January. David was a gay rights activist in Uganda, leading the Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) campaigning organisation.

David knew he was a target in a country renown for its anti-gay laws. It is already an offence, punishable by 14 years in prison, to have gay sex in Uganda. A new Anti-Homosexuality Bill will, if passed, raise this penalty to the death sentence for “repeat offenders” and make it an offence to know about lesbians and gays having sex and not report it.

Although a private member’s bill, President Yoweri Museveni initially supported it. International pressure has forced some verbal backpedalling, but the Bill remains set to be voted on in this month.

Last October, Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone whipped up a frenzy of homophobia by printing the names, photos and home addresses of 29 lesbians and gays, including David, under the headline, “Hang them: they are after our kids!!” Three months later, David is dead.

David also spent time in South Africa, where he was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s overturning of apartheid’s own anti-gay laws, David returned to Uganda in 1998 determined to fight discrimination and criminalisation.

Kato saw gay rights as human rights and the struggle for them as part of the fight against all forms of social oppression and for liberation. It is also part of the international class struggle.

In a shocking codicil, the British government was, on the day news of David’s murder broke, trying to deport lesbian Ugandan Brenda Namigadde. Embarrassed only by the timing, the Home Office granted Brenda a reprieve. But the ugly truth is that Britain rejects 98 per cent of sexuality-based claims for asylum.

We must reject homophobia everywhere. In the words of Joe Hill: “Don’t mourn – organise!”

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