Ugandan Activist Frank Mugisha Talks Politics, Homophobia
The human rights leader comes to Detroit on Feb. 20, 2014 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to shed light on the struggles of LGBT people in his country and others
Human rights activist Frank Mugisha is the leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, an organization focused on removing all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Uganda—where homosexuality could soon be punishable with a sentence of life imprisonment if the country’s anti-homosexuality bill becomes law. This could also lead to Mugisha being arrested on sight.
Using his fight in Uganda to highlight the struggle of LGBT people around the world, Mugisha will attend a screening of the gay rights film Call Me Kuchu, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2014 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, to join a panel to discuss why any breach of human rights is a shared struggle.
From a disclosed location, BLAC asked the activist to update us on his organization's priorities and the current situation in Uganda.
We are on the outside looking in when it comes to the heightened homophobia in Uganda. What is at the root of this atmosphere?
There are many reasons for homophobia (in Uganda), mostly it is due to ignorance. Ugandan people think it is western and not African, but the biggest problem is religion. Religious leaders have lied to Ugandans about homosexuality and they have made Ugandan people fear homosexuals. Some of these extreme religious leaders are from (the) United States who bring homophobia to Africa.
The obvious mission is to change the treatment of LGBT people. But currently, what is your No. 1 priority?
My No. 1 priority is to make sure that the anti-homosexuality bill is not passed into law
Some may view the LGBT fight for human rights a separate issue because they are heterosexual or "straight." Tell me why human rights are a shared struggle, especially in Uganda where people are being killed for being gay.
LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender and intersex) rights are the same rights as any other rights granted by state or federal laws. Our own constitution in Uganda grants us the same rights like any other Ugandan and we are not seeking any special rights from those granted to us by the constitution. Also, most LGBTI peoples in Uganda are in the closet and cannot come out for fear of persecution.
We need to work on LGBTI rights collectively because in Uganda we don’t know who we are protecting—anyone can be gay.
What can people in the U.S. do to help the fight for LGBT human rights in Uganda--whether it our president who helps or just someone who believes in your cause?
First of all, speaking out loudly on what is happening is important, but also seeing the struggle as a global struggle is key. Political leaders speaking out are very important—condemning the bad laws. Most importantly, supporting LGBT groups and individuals in your own country is important and encouraging them to get involved in the struggle as a global issue. Hold extreme religious evangelicals accountable, naming and shaming them.
Are all human rights in jeopardy in Uganda beyond the rights of LGBT people?
There is abuse of human rights in Uganda, but not as much violation as there is on LGBT rights.
Is President Museveni an ally?
President (Yoweri) Museveni is evolving on the issue of homosexuality, but like many Ugandans he has moments of homophobic views.
In your opinion, is homosexuality being blamed for the AIDS crisis in Africa?
Not as much as I read and see homosexuality being blamed for HIV in other developed countries.