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Targeted Ugandan Gay Activist Murdered

Note: As of Thursday afternoon, the New York Times reports that the local police are already characterizing Kato's murder as a robbery rather than a hate crime, while Don Schmierer, one of the American evangelicals who toured Uganda in 2009 is quoted as saying “Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that." He also complains of feeling "bludgeoned."

It worked. Last fall a Ugandan tabloid splashed the headline “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos” next to his picture, and called for the murder of all Ugandan queers. Yesterday David Kato was found beaten to death in his home in Mukono, Kampala.

The press statement from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), where Kato, one of his country’s best-known human rights activists, worked as an advocacy officer, noted that “David’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity” in response to Kato’s suit against the tabloid earlier this month. Which just goes to show that people who bludgeon gay men to death don’t spend a fuck of a lot of time pondering the law.

They may not even read tabloids. But it’s almost certain that they pick up on the steady beat of state sanctioned full-on hatred for LGBT people that pervades Ugandan culture, where Kato was a leading voice against the country’s notorious “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” also known as the "Kill the Gays" bill. As Nation Institute Fellow Jeff Sharlet notes, the bill’s provisions include “up to three years in prison for failing to report a homosexual; seven years for ‘promotion’; life imprisonment for a single homosexual act; and for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (which includes gay sex while HIV-positive, gay sex with a disabled person, or, if you’re a recidivist, gay sex with anyone—marking the criminal as a ‘serial offender’), death.”

It was introduced in 2009 by a member of parliament named David Bahati, whom Sharlet identifies as a “rising star” in the powerful American evangelical movement known as The Family. And it was written, and heavily promoted, with the help of three American evangelicals who toured Uganda in March of that year. These self-described “experts,” goaded packed houses of Ugandans to persecute LGBT people by feeding them the usual garbage—no longer quite so salable in the United States—about LGBT people undermining family values, along with the usual claims about gay men preying on teenage boys.

In short, while only one person is likely to be held responsible for Kato’s murder—and only then if we are very, very, very lucky, given the foul history between Uganda’s police and its LGBT community—there’s a long line of people who helped create a climate where the act could be considered a blow for the common good. As Val Kalende, the board chair at Freedom and Roam Uganda, said: “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by US Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called US Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

Don’t hold your breath. 

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