Dr. Frank Mugisha is a Ugandan LGBT advocate who has won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for his activism. Along with Val Kalende, Victor Mukasa, Patrick Leuben Mukajanga and Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Mugisha is one of the most prominent advocates for LGBT rights in Uganda.
Dr. Mugisha was born in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda. Raised in a strict Catholic family, he came out to his brother at age 14. Although his coming out estranged him from some family members, other friends and family have continued to support him.
While still at university in 2004, he founded Icebreakers Uganda, an organization created as a support network for LGBT Ugandans who are out or in the process of coming out to family and friends. Mugisha is now the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an umbrella organization that consists of four groups, including Icebreakers Uganda.
Mugisha was close friends with fellow advocate and SMUG founder David Kato, who was murdered in January 2011 after successfully suing a tabloid named Rolling Stone for publishing the names of 100 LGBT Ugandans with an encouragement to "hang them". Mugisha is one of the plaintiffs from SMUG represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights using the Alien Tort Statute to sue American evangelist Scott Lively for crimes against humanity for his work on the Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, work described as inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians and as "conduct ... actively trying to harm and deprive other people of their rights [which] is the definition of persecution". In August 2013, Federal U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor ruled that the plaintiffs were on solid ground under international and federal law in rejecting a jurisdictional challenge to the suit; he also ruled that First Amendment defenses for Lively's conduct were premature.
Writing in The Guardian in 2014, Mugisha argued that homophobia and the hatred behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill were from western influences: "I am a gay man. I am also Ugandan. There is nothing un-African about me. Uganda is where I was born, grew up and call my home. It is also a country in which I have become little more than an unapprehended criminal because of whom I love. I want my fellow Ugandans to understand that homosexuality is not a western import and our friends in the developed world to recognise that the current trend of homophobia is."
Mugisha was awarded the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2011 Rafto Prize, whose previous laureates include Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-jung and Shirin Ebadi, for his work pursuing LGBT rights in Uganda. He also received an honorary doctorate of the University of Ghent. Mugisha is 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
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