CANCELED: Fish-Harnack Lecture: Rights advocate to talk about homophobia in Uganda


A leading advocate of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Uganda will talk about the struggles of sexual minorities in the dangerously hostile climate of East Africa, in the 2015 Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), will speak about “Homophobia in Africa: Perspectives from Uganda,” on Tuesday, March 17, at 4 p.m., in the AT&T Room, Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus.

Sponsored by the UW–Madison Human Rights Program and Division of International Studies, this event is free and open to the public. An informal reception will follow the lecture.

This event honors Mildred Fish-Harnack, a Milwaukee native who was a UW student in the 1920s. While living in Germany, Fish-Harnack assisted in the escape of German Jews and political dissidents. She is the only American civilian executed under the personal instruction of Adolf Hitler, for her resistance to the Nazi regime.

Frank Mugisha
Frank Mugisha

Mugisha, one of the few openly gay activists in Uganda, began advocating for LGBTI rights and HIV/AIDS awareness as a university student in 2004. That year, SMUG was formed as an umbrella non-governmental organization to advocate for the protection and promotion of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

In 2007, Mugisha was among members of Uganda’s LGBTI community who came out publicly during a 45-day media campaign, “Let Us Live in Peace.” He spearheaded the support group Icebreakers Uganda, which provides resources to those who are openly gay or are coming out. In 2012, he started the only LGBT health center in Uganda.

For his outspoken work, he has been named and shamed in Ugandan media and personally targeted.

In 2009, Mugisha led religious leaders and HIV/AIDS activists in a massive march to petition the Ugandan Parliament to stop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which criminalized consensual same-sex acts and the medical treatment of homosexuals with HIV/AIDS. He continues to advocate against anti-gay legislation.

For his work, Mugisha has been recognized worldwide, including by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In 2009, Advocate magazine named him as one of the leading activists under 40. He has received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (2011), Rafto Prize for Human Rights in Bergen, Norway (2011), the International Human Rights Film Award (2013) by Amnesty International, Human Rights Film Network and Cinema for Peace, the James Earl Hardy Legendary Award (2012), and the Homos Heroes Award (2012) by the Gay and Lesbian Foundation. He has received an honorary doctorate from Ghent University in Belgium.

The Human Rights Program is supported by a UW–Madison Mellon Foundation grant for the advancement of area and international studies and coordinated by the Global Legal Studies Center.

For more information, contact Sumudu Atapattu, at
– by Kerry G. Hill