According to Vice a contingent of Ugandan LGBT activists were recently denied visitor visas to attend World Pride 2014, which will be held in Toronto this summer. The move comes as a surprise given the Canadian government’s strong, condemnatory stance on Uganda’s repressive regime criminalizing homosexuality.
The contingent of activists—comprised of ten men and women who are all currently risking their lives in the fight for LGBT rights on the ground in Uganda—were invited to a human rights conference at the University of Toronto taking place June 25-27. Just one member of the contingent, keynote speaker Dr. Frank Mugisha, a highly prominent advocate and a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, is able to come to Canada on a multiple-entry visa he had been issued for previous travels.
Brenda Cossman, conference co-chair, told the Toronto Star that it remains critical to the global solidarity movement that the contingent be able to attend the World Pride human rights conference. The conference wants to hear from the delegation so that effective allyship is possible from abroad.
“We are at risk of losing their voices,” said Cossman.
Dr. Mugisha is a lawyer and the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an umbrella NGO that describes itself as aiming “to liberate LGBT in Uganda.” SMUG is a network of organizations serving LGBT people across Uganda that came about in 2004, including smaller organizations like Icebreakers Uganda (serves LGBT Ugandans who are in the process of coming out), Spectrum Uganda (focuses on the health and well being of LGBT Ugandans), and the Transgender Initiative Uganda.
Mugisha was close friends and colleagues with the former advocacy officer at SMUG, David Kato. Kato, considered a father of the Ugandan LGBT rights movement and “Uganda’s first openly gay man” was murdered in January 2011 shortly after successfully suing a tabloid for publishing the names, photos, and addresses of 100 suspected LGBT Ugandans with the order to “hang them.” Several people on the list were viciously attacked, and many went into hiding afterwards.
Mugisha is himself the plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by SMUG and supported by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, against American evangelical Scott Lively and Abiding Truth Ministries (considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) for his work on the Anti-Homosexuality Act and in cultivating a culture of homophobic populism in Uganda. Lively has personally endorsed the death penalty for LGBT individuals.
What’s worse, The Fellowship Foundation or “The Family”—the same US religious group that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House—also provided “a base of inspiration and technical support” for the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda.
Since the bill was signed into law in February 2014, SMUG reports that anti-gay attacks have increased ten-fold, including lynchings, mob violence, evictions, arson, blackmail, firings, and arrests. Within days of the legislation going into effect, another list of 200 alleged homosexuals was printed in a newspaper. Dr. Mugisha’s name was on it.