This morning Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the anti-LGBT bill enacted this February. The law was determined “null and void” because the Parliament lacked a quorum when it was passed the bill last December. While Ugandan advocates and the court petitioners celebrate this important decision, they are also cognizant that the ruling could result in a backlash against LGBT Ugandans.
"Today Uganda's Constitutional Court declared ‘null and void’ the draconian and discriminatory anti-LGBT law that was enacted earlier this year, and we commend the courageous lawyers, advocates, and allies who stood up for the human rights of LGBT Ugandans," said Ty Cobb, HRC’s Director of Global Engagement.
The now-defunct law punished "aggravated homosexuality" with life imprisonment. It also put obstacles in the way of those who advocate for equality by prohibiting the so -called “promotion of homosexuality.” Following the court decision, Member of Parliament David Bahati, an outspoken proponent and sponsor of the bill, held a press conference and pledged to appeal the decision to the country’s Supreme Court.
In May, the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) released a report indicating that enactment of the law had led to a tenfold increase in violence against LGBT people. Their survey recorded over 150 incidents of violence, including an attempted lynching, mob violence, homes burned down, blackmail, lost jobs, arrests, evictions and suicides.
"We also recognize that the ruling was based on the failure to follow parliamentary procedure during the law's passage, and that Uganda's Parliament could seek to once again further enshrine anti-LGBT bigotry into its nation's law," said Cobb. "These past several months have shown that enacting such legislation can have very real and even violent consequences for LGBT people."
In June, HRC President Chad Griffin wrote President Obama calling for the Administration to "begin issuing immediate, concrete results that will illustrate the United States’ commitment to protecting human rights in Uganda." Later that month, the Obama Administration announced a series of actions designed to hold the government of Uganda accountable for the enactment of the draconian law.
Today’s news comes only days before Ugandan President Museveni and dozens of other African heads of state are scheduled to participate in President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
HRC joined coalition allies in a letter to President Obama calling for "robust civil society participation" in the summit, and HRC co-authored a report with Human Rights First that demonstrates the need to include LGBT human rights in our nation’s engagement with African leaders.