Award-winning activist Kasha Nabageserais is in Dublin this weekend to learn from Ireland's human rights community, as much as to impart her experiences of defending Uganda's persecuted homosexuals, she says.
The former accountant turned community leader has acquired a wealth of knowledge over the past decade around how one goes about fighting for gay people’s rights in a country such as Uganda, one of Africa’s most homophobic states.
The 32-year-old is coming here to share her insights and experiences during two addresses at Amnesty International’s annual two-day conference in the capital, but she says meeting other like-minded people is of the utmost importance too.
"I want to share with Irish people what is happening to gay people in Uganda," she told The Irish Times from Kampala, "but I also want their support and to learn from their experiences in human rights. I will take what I learn home to Uganda and use it to further our struggle."
Homosexuality is illegal in the east African country, and gay rights campaigners like Nabageserais face constant harassment and persecution from the media and the state, as well as physical violence from random members of the public.
“Our struggle is difficult at the moment and the anti-gay lobby in our country has the upper hand. They get all the airtime to condemn us and we are not given any time to explain who we are to the public. There is a constant threat of violence against us because of ignorance.
"People are misled about what being gay means and there is a lack of trust in the unknown. Our plight is also not helped by the issue of patriarchy in Uganda and more generally across Africa," she says.
Legislation is currently before the Ugandan parliament which includes a punishment of life imprisonment for consensual sex between two people of the same sex and has, in some drafts, included an offence called “aggravated homosexuality”, which would be punished by execution.
Yet Nabageserais and her colleagues at Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex organisation established in 2003, openly engage with society about gay rights, and offer their “brother and sisters” counselling and leadership.
“Many gay Ugandans are alienated in their communities so they need help in the form of economic empowerment, capacity building and social inclusion,” she says.
In 2011 Nabageserais was given the Martin Ennals Award for her work.
Hans Thoolen, chairman of the Martin Ennals Foundation, in announcing the award, described her as "a leading light, an exceptional woman of a rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity."
Nabageserais was one of a number of prominent gay activists identified in a Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone (no connection to the American magazine), that called for them to be hunted down and hanged, and accused them of wanting to recruit young children.
One of the other people identified, David Kato, was subsequently murdered in 2011.
In addition she is part of a group suing US evangelist and anti-gay crusader Scott Lively for conspiring with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with claims that gay people would assault African children and corrupt their culture.
“We must tackle the prejudices at the highest level and try to get the decriminalisation process under way because we need a protective law in Uganda for gay people,” she says.