In Uganda, with an estimated LGBTQ+ community of 500,000 people, the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 decreed any same-sex partnerships or activities punishable by life in prison or, in some cases, death. Though the law was later annulled, LGBTQ+ people in Uganda are still in danger of discrimination, lack of legal protections, and violence, often encouraged by religious leaders and at the hands of state officials. Given that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to life (Article 3), equal protection of the law (Article 7), and freedom of expression (Article 19), this discriminatory legislation of Uganda is an affront not only to Ugandan citizens but to the international human rights framework.
In this lesson, students will examine the human rights context for LGBTQ+ people in Uganda, analyze tactics for bringing about change for marginalized people, and look at transitional leaders who have brought about social change.
Frank Mugisha, leader of the Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) coalition for LGBTQ+ rights, acted as a spokesperson against the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and lost his jobs, friends, and family as a result. His continued advocacy and amplification of LGBTQ+ lives and dignity is featured in our lesson plan “LGBTQ+ Rights and Non-Discrimination.” After students gather a background knowledge of the culture of Uganda and the church’s role in suppressing LGBTQ+ rights, they dive deeper into social movements from around the globe and explore different ways to bring about legislative, attitudinal, and social change. Using analytical and consensus-building tactics with their peers, students decide on the leadership characteristics and action steps that are needed to create a plan to engage in systemic change with Uganda.
Frank Mugisha is a courageous champion of human rights, working for change through nonviolent means. He is one of the few openly LGBTQ+ activists in his country of Uganda.
“Becoming an activist was a gradual process for me. Every time I met a Ugandan person and was able to change his mind about homosexuality, it made me want to continue. I have to work very hard and speak out to make a change. Maybe out of 33 million Ugandans I can reach seven, maybe at some point I can reach 15 million. And maybe years to come, someone will pick up from where I left off.”
Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates. Classes may choose to utilize RFK Human Rights resources, including Mugisha’s acceptance of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2011.