The 2011 Rafto Prize was awarded to Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Frank Mugisha (1979), Executive Director of SMUG, received the award on behalf of the organisation. SMUG received the Rafto Prize for its struggle to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
SMUG is a coalition of organisations that work for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI people, or sexual minorities, which is the term used by SMUG). Since its inception in 2004, SMUG has become a powerful voice for a stigmatised and persecuted minority. The coalition has played an important role in opposing the proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" and has successfully used the legal system to fight harassment and violence from government and private actors. SMUG also does important work supporting individuals who suffer from abuse.
Frank Mugisha and his colleagues in SMUG have demonstrated great courage in fronting the fight for LGBTI people's rights. People who do not conform to society's gender and sexual norms are subject to abuse in today's Uganda. Homosexuality is publicly portrayed as "un-African" and a "contagious" pollutant that destroys society and therefore must be eliminated. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons are often ostracised by their families and local communities and are left without any form of social safety net. Many lose their jobs and places at school and end up having to live in the slum.
By awarding the 2011 Rafto Prize to SMUG and Frank Mugisha's fight for sexual minorities, the Rafto Foundation wishes to underscore that human rights encompass everyone and that it is unacceptable to persecute or discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. SMUG and Frank Mugisha's fight for the human dignity of a particularly vulnerable group is also part of a greater fight for democracy and social justice.
Since receiving the Rafto prize, the Rafto Foundation has worked closely with SMUG and Mugisha, providing protection and running the Twitter-campaign #tacklehomophobia. Mugisha is also among the laureates initiating the Rafto programme “Free Speech to Overcome Hate Speech”.
"We need new voices to speak up for feedom and dignity for gays and lesbians"