For Immediate Release: October 21, 2010
New York City – Today, Human Rights First will present its 2010 Human Rights Award to a renowned Hungarian advocate for the rights of the Roma people in Europe and a Ugandan activist on the front lines of defeating a draconian anti-homosexuality bill there. The group will bestow the awards to this year’s recipients, Julius Kaggwa and Viktória Mohácsi, during its annual award dinner in New York City.
“Human Rights First is pleased to honor these activists who—at great personal risk—stand up for the rights of those targeted for discrimination and abuse,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Julius and Viktória are courageous leaders in the fight against discrimination and hate crimes in their own societies, where prejudices often are masked as socially acceptable. In reality, such prejudices are at the root of widespread discrimination, marginalization, and outright violence. Despite death threats and ongoing danger to their own well-being, these two human rights advocates persevere in the struggle for equal opportunity and equal treatment for all. We draw strength from their resolve and their example. We are privileged to work with them and to honor their courage and achievements with this award.”
Human Rights First will recognize Mohácsi for her tireless work to abolish discrimination and hate crimes against Roma communities suffering at the hands of anti-Roma societies throughout Europe. Mohácsi is the founder of Desegregation, a Hungary based organization she established to monitor hate crimes committed against Roma. She has been a leading advocate to raise awareness and improve government responses to attacks against the Roma community that have been taking place since 2008.
Earlier in her career, Mohácsi worked as an editor and news presenter for the Romani program on the Hungarian state television, Patrin. She was later elected a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, only one of two Roma Euro-parliamentarians. During that period, from 2004-2009, Mohácsi raised awareness of the blatant mistreatment of Roma communities across Europe. She led efforts to position the issue of Roma rights on the agenda of the European Parliament. Last year, as Hungary’s anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and xenophobic far-right Jobbik party gained control, Mohácsi lost her parliamentary seat. While she focuses her activism largely in Hungary, she remains a leader in the fight for Roma rights throughout Europe.
Human Rights First will honor Kaggwa for his devotion to defeating the proposed Anti-Homosexual Bill inUganda, legislation that would have drastically increased punishments for homosexuality or its promotion. Born and raised in Uganda, Kaggwa has long advocated for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. He is the Director of Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development (SIPD), a project working to promote human rights protection and holistic support for children and people with intersex conditions. He has also been a lead player of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a group that is at the forefront of domestic campaigning against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill recently tabled before the Ugandan parliament.
Homophobic legislation and violence against LGBTI individuals are on the rise in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Kaggwa’s work aims to fight this trend by promoting tolerance towards sexual minorities in Uganda and campaigning for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Despite constant threats on his safety, Kaggwa continues to promote the human rights for all Ugandans, including the LGBTI community.
Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards for more than 20 years. In tribute to this long tradition and the awards’ enduring legacy, this year’s program will feature special guest and 1998 Human Rights Award recipient, Gerda Weissman Klein. Weissman Klein is a Holocaust survivor whose foundation, the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, promotes tolerance, respect, and empowerment of students through education and community service. She has written several books about her experiences, including the memoir All But my Life, which was the basis for the 1995 Academy Award-winning documentary short film, One Survivor Remembers.
In addition to Weissmann Klein, former recipients include Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam from Darfur; Ludmilla Alexeeva from Russia; Helen Mack from Guatemala; Archbishop Pius Ncube from Zimbabwe; Saad Eddin Ibrahim from Egypt; Albie Sachs from South Africa; Hina Jalani from Pakistan; and Mary Robinson from Ireland.
Tonight’s awards ceremony honoring these courageous people fighting for just cause will start at 6 p.m. and take place at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers.