SP and D66 nominate Ugandan gay rights activist for Dutch human rights prize

14 June 2012

SP and D66 nominate Ugandan gay rights activist for Dutch human rights prize

Euro-MPs Sophie in 't Veld of D66, one of two Dutch parties affiliated to European Parliament Liberal group ALDE, and the SP’s Dennis de Jong today nominated Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha for the Mensenrechtentulp (Human Rights Tulip), the Dutch government’s annual human rights prize. The nomination was made in the name of the EP’s Intergroup on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual rights, a cross-party group of concerned MEPs. As director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Mugisha has shown exceptional courage, putting his own life in danger to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other sexual minorities in Uganda. His predecessor, David Kato, was murdered last year.

Courageous struggle
Dennis de Jong The human rights situation for homosexual population groups in African countries is awful. In some countries it’s getting worse by the day. The courageous struggle led by Mugisha, sometimes putting his own life in danger, deserves therefore not only this token of recognition, but encouragement,’ says In 't Veld. De Jong adds that ‘international attention to the important work that this man is doing is really needed. The last director of SMUG, David Kato, was murdered for his efforts for human rights. No such thing must ever happen again. Proper recognition and the financial support for his work on the local level attached to it are more important than ever.’

European Parliament
In 't Veld en De Jong was pleased to be able to present the nomination along with her colleagues in the European Parliament which, she says ‘takes at the present time a lead in the fight for gay rights.’ In addition to MEPs from the LGBT Intergroup, Dutch gay rights organisation COC, as well as the International Lesbian and Gay Alliance, have expressed support for the nomination. In many European countries great progress has been made over the last few years, but in others Lesbians, gays, bi- and transsexuals remain under enormous pressure. "We must maintain this momentum and watch out that we don’t fall into a negative spiral in which homophobia, in Europe too, gains ever more ground,’ De Jong warns. ‘That’s precisely why the Netherlands must show, by giving Frank Mugisha this prize, that gay rights in Europe and the Netherlands remain a priority,’ adds In 't Veld.

Poor relation
The struggle for gay rights remains a sensitive subject. Even in countries which feel very strongly about human rights, this is often treated as a poor relation. ‘Even the Netherlands has become less gay-friendly in recent years, standing sixth in the ILGA rankings,’ In ‘t Veld points out. ‘It’s a matter of honour: the Netherlands must top this list.’ Support for human rights defenders is one of the priorities of Dutch human rights policy. ‘It would do the Netherlands credit this year to reach out to a leading campaigner for gay rights, and would fit with all of the international efforts our country has made in this respect,’ says De Jong.

Source of inspirationMugisha describes himself as ‘honoured’ to have been nominated. ‘I do extremely important work in Uganda,’ he says. ‘I protect people from arrest, discrimination and violence in a homophobic society. My voice is for many a source of inspiration, giving them hope and courage. My plea is therefore aimed at changing people’s thinking, so that they can tolerate and accept gays, lesbians, bi- and transsexuals in the society.’

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