The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize (Raftostiftelsen) is a human rights award established in the memory of the Norwegian human right activist, Thorolf Rafto.
A press release issued Thursday by the official Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said SMUG, under the leadership of Mr Frank Mugisha, had played an important role to stop the controversial Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 from being passed by Ugandan Parliament.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, “I would like to congratulate Sexual Minorities Uganda on winning this important prize. It is a recognition of SMUG’s courageous efforts to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda.”
Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim added, “We see this as a tribute to all those who dare to stand up against the discrimination and hate crime sexual minorities are often subjected to. SMUG is working to dispel myths and prejudice so that, in the long term, society will realise that human rights are for all.”
On a number of occasions Norway has raised the issue of the situation of sexual minorities with the Ugandan authorities, including in talks between President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and Mr Støre.
Mr Mugisha told Behind the Mask in Kampala that he was excited about the prize. He said, “Although the work of speaking against injustices to homosexuals is not recognized in Uganda, it is receiving attention internationally. That’s why Uganda should be proud of us for speaking out against injustices. This prize is not only given to LGBTI activists, it is recognition across sectors.”
He said the award would offer “Protection because of the international high profile it brings with it”. He said SMUG deserved the award because it has come along way defending minority groups.
Mr Mugisha recently won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award created by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial in 1984 to honour individuals around the world who show courage and have made a significant contribution to human rights in their country.
The Rafto prize is awarded annually by the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, which was founded in the humanistic tradition of the Helsinki Accords in order to promote the fundamental human rights of intellectual and political freedom.
Today, the foundation is based at the Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway. The major work of the foundation, including the organization of the award ceremony is done by a small team of professional staff and volunteers. The award ceremony takes place at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen annually in November.
The initial idea of the Rafto Prize was to provide a basic informative platform for the laureates that would help to receive further attention from the international media and support from political and non-political organisations.
By awarding the Rafto Prize, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights seeks to bring attention to independent voices that due to oppressive and corruptive regimes are not always heard. For example, four Rafto Laureates have subsequently received further international assistance and were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. They are Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi.