Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera of Uganda has been given the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for her courage as a gay activist defending minority rights. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and can be punished by long jail terms. In October 2009, an Anti-Homosexuality bill was introduced to increase the penalties in Uganda for homosexual acts from 14 years to life in prison.
Nabagesera has been harassed and threatened since 2007 and in January one of her colleagues, David Kato, was murdered following the publication of a ‘gay list’ by a Ugandan tabloid which called for their hanging. Nabagesera’s name also appeared on the list. She has since gone from house to house, rather than stay too long in one place.
Jury chairman Hans Thoolen called her “an exceptional woman of rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity and the rights of homosexuals and marginalized people in Africa.”
"This is a fitting tribute to the courage of one woman, Kasha Nabagesera, and to all activists working under conditions of extreme threat," said Dipika Nath, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Martin Ennals Award is named after the late British lawyer who became the first head of the human rights organization, Amnesty International. Nabagesera will receive the award at a ceremony in Geneva in late 2011.