Update: Watch Frank Mugisha accept the RFK Human Rights Award.
November 10, 2011 – There are three things you need to know when Frank Mugisha receives the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights’ prestigious Human Rights Award today.
First, the award is more than well-deserved. Frank has been a tireless and courageous advocate for the fair, respectful and equal treatment of Uganda’s LGBT citizens in one of the most difficult, even dangerous climates for LGBT people anywhere in the world. His willingness to take on this role, even after the murder of his colleague David Kato, speaks to his strong sense of social justice. And the quiet commitment he has shown in the uphill climb to equality in Uganda is nothing short of inspirational.
Second, the Robert F. Kennedy Center’s multi-year partnership with SMUG, offered as part of this award, is a model that other organizations would do well to follow. Rather than offering a plaque or trophy and retreating to applause, the Center has pledged to work with Frank to elevate the work of his organization, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), for a period of six years. And rather than proposing a one-size-fits-all package of benefits, the Center is working actively with Frank and others who best understand Uganda’s civil society to chart a path forward. This is the kind of smart, hand-and-heart advocacy that has the best prospects of propelling success.
And third, though the spotlight on Uganda’s anti-gay bill has faded for now, the dangers to Uganda’s LGBT community are as strong as ever. Many members of that community are in hiding, or indeed have left the country, a result of a climate of fear that has only grown since Kato’s murder. And the anti-gay bill has not gone away. Indeed, support for the bill remains high in numerous social and political circles, and there are well-founded concerns that it may be resurrected in time for the country’s next round of elections.
Frank Mugisha’s selection as this year’s award recipient underscores that LGBT rights have become central to the wider cause of universal human rights. He deserves not only this recognition by the Robert F Kennedy Center, but all of our steadfast support in the cause he so ably champions.