‘Visionary’ Jamaican rights activist announced as recipient of inaugural David Kato Award

Global award honouring murdered human rights activist to be presented to Jamaican lawyer, Maurice Tomlinson in London

David Kato, the human rights activist murdered in his home in Kampala, Uganda on 26 January 2011, is representative of the millions of individuals worldwide who daily struggle against hostility and persecution simply because of their sexuality.

Inspired by his life and work, the David Kato Vision & Voice Award (www.visionandvoiceaward.com) recognizes the leadership of individuals who strive to uphold the human rights and human dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world.  The inaugural award will be presented to Jamaican lawyer and activist Maurice Tomlinson almost one year to the day when David was murdered, on 29 January 2012 at a ceremony in London.

Jamaica is regarded as one of the most homophobic countries in the world, where at least 35 people have been murdered because of their sexuality since 1997. Despite the very real risks to his own life and safety, Maurice Tomlinson has been one of the most outspoken advocates for LGBTI rights in Jamaica, working tirelessly to promote change in laws and policies and challenging misrepresentations about LGBTI communities.

Frank Mugisha, chair person of the David Kato Vision & Voice Award Steering Committee, and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said: “The spirit of the work that David fought and died for is perfectly captured by the very essence of Maurice’s tireless efforts in Jamaica and the region. In a highly competitive process Maurice is a worthy recipient of the very first David Kato Vision & Voice Award.”

The culmination of Maurice’s ongoing work is the unprecedented legal challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law that Maurice initiated at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Maurice is leading the legal team to file the first-ever such challenge at the regional level. If successful, it could be the beginning of the end of legalized homophobia in Jamaica, and undoubtedly will have a multiplier effect throughout the Caribbean.

Kevin Osborne, Senior Adviser on HIV at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: “Despite advances in many countries the fight for the sexual rights of LGBTI people is far from over. The overwhelming response to the David Kato Vision & Voice Award has highlighted that across the world – in far flung places and regions LGBTI people are using our voices and vision to achieve human rights for all. It’s a battle that must be won.”

George Ayala, Executive Officer, The Global Forum on MSM & HIV, said: “Maurice’s courage and unapologetic determination to raise awareness and to bring people together in support of gay men and their families in the Caribbean embodies the spirit of the David Kato Vision & Voice Award.  Maurice’s work is absolutely critical to the fight against HIV.”

The David Kato Vision & Voice Award supports David’s legacy – continuing to promote human rights, particularly for LGBTI people – and recognizes the incredible and often dangerous work of individuals like David around the world. It will be awarded annually, to an individual who demonstrates courage and outstanding leadership in advocating for the sexual rights of LGBTI people, particularly in environments where these individuals face continued rejection, marginalization, isolation and persecution. The award will be accompanied by a grant of US$10,000.

The David Kato Vision & Voice Award ceremony will be held on 29 January 2012 at the Kensington Roof Gardens, Kensington High Street, London, UK.

The David Kato Vision & Voice Award is supported and sponsored by:

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF)
Herbert Smith LLP
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
The Make a Difference Trust
AIDS Fonds
The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Source – David Kato Vision and Voice Global Award