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Ugandan Constitutional Court Upholds Anti Homosexuality Law

By Melanie Nathan, April 03, 2024.


AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION IS EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED IN THE FAILURE OF THE UGANDAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT but will reserve full comment on the ruling until we receive the written ruling.

 

"The conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous. This judgement will serve to continue to embolden both state and non-state actors in the ongoing violence and persecution perpetrated against Uganda's LGBTI community." 

 

Uganda's constitutional court today refused to annul or suspend the Anti-Homosexuality ACT of 2023 (AHA)  that includes the death penalty for so called "aggravated homosexuality", but found some of its provisions inconsistent with certain fundamental human rights, noting  that what they struck down protects mostly the straight people in Uganda.

"We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement," said lead judge Richard Buteera, reading the judgment on behalf of his four colleagues. However, the court struck down certain sections it said were "inconsistent with right to health, privacy and freedom of religion".

The decision was greeted with dismay by opponents of the law, although the five-judge bench did strike out several provisions it said were inconsistent with international rights conventions.

These included provisions making it an offense to fail to report homosexual acts, to lease premises for such acts, or if someone engaging in homosexual sex led the other to contract a terminal illness.



The legislation, adopted in May last year, is among the world's harshest anti-gay laws and has drawn condemnation from around  the world. This case can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

Petitioners against the law include a lawmaker  asked judges to strike the law down, saying it violated their constitutional rights.


Petitioners against the law include a lawmaker who asked judges to strike the law down, saying it violated their constitutional rights. The petition was brought by two law professors, legislators from the ruling party and human rights activists. They had charged that the legislation violated fundamental rights guaranteed by Uganda's constitution, including freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy. The petitioners also said it contravened Uganda's commitments under international human rights law, including the United Nations convention against torture.

 

The petitioners can appeal to the Supreme Court.


The law has caused an upsurge in the violence and discrimination in an already anti- LGBTI climate in Uganda. Over 300% higher amount of cases of abuse were reported to HRAPF over a one year period since passage. With many more reported to African Human Rights Coalition. that does not form part of that statistic. Cases include beatings,  torture, rape, arrest , banishment, extortion and eviction.

 

An attorney  for the Human Rights Defenders who brought the action, Nicholas Opiyo:

"The court delivered the summary judgment, declining to nullify Uganda's anti-homosexuality law. We disagree with the findings but look forward to receiving their detailed reasoning and consulting on our next steps. To base a decision on public sentiments, purported cultural values, and unfounded/unsubstantiated allegations of recruitment into homosexuality is strange, to say the least. You come to court expecting it to rise above public bigotry and sentiments. To that extent, it is a letdown, but we will see what next steps can be taken."

AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION IS EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED IN THE FAILURE OF THE UGANDAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT but will reserve full comment on the ruling until we receive the written ruling.

It seems the Judges may have created new convenient theory for adjudicating constitutionality. But let us wait for the written decision. What is clear is that by striking down the duty to report clause, the Judges were seeking to protect the average Ugandan who would become criminals if they did not report known homosexuals. Doctors, teachers, parents, preachers and judges and hence the general populace are saved from being criminalized under the AHA, but not LGBTI people who will now feel an even greater surge in all the horrendous persecution that the law serves to license.
Currently many LGBTQI Ugandans are seeking relocation or have fled the country seeking asylum or refugee mandates as the case may be. There are not enough pathways, resources or durable solutions to cover the enormous crisis that has developed. Most forcibly displaced LGBTI people have nowhere to go except to cross the border into neighboring countries such as Kenya, or Zambia where they are also criminalized based on their SOGIESC. 
In these countries the governments are closing down the registration process for LGBTQI people flocking into their countries. The conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous. This Constitutional Court ruling will serve to continue to embolden both state and non-state actors in the ongoing violence and persecution perpetrated against Uganda's LGBTI community.
At African Human Rights Coalition we are receiving many requests daily for help from people claiming attacks, firings, evictions, in Uganda. Our resources  at AHRC are small and running extremely low. We have to turn away many people.
We urge  the U.S. Government and others to bring harsher measures to bear on Uganda. Any global community that sanctioned South Africa's Apartheid regime - should bring the full consequences now to Uganda, before this case hits the Supreme Court. Countries should not wait any longer. The time for being measured has passed. Failing strong action encourages the other African countries to carry out their current threats to bring harsher anti-homosexuality laws. Lest we forget that President Museveni of Uganda called on all African leaders to help rid the world of homosexuality when he signed the AHA into law.

Donations to AHRC's work can be made here.


COUNTRY CONDITIONS EXPERT WITNESS CONTACT: Melanie Nathan, nathan@AfricanHRC.org

Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition is a qualified country of origin expert witness in the United States and global immigration courts, providing expert written country conditions  reports and testimony for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary, LGBTQI + asylum seekers from African Countries, such as Uganda, Ghana, Angola, Kenya, and more...  HERE


Melanie also consults multinational corporations regarding briefings and policy for operations and issue impacted by anti-homosexuality laws and country conditions. SEE HERE




 

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