Uganda’s Constitutional Court Largely Upholds Draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act

by Kathryn Smith

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Constitutional Court of Uganda upheld the majority of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act, striking down only four provisions. The law, signed by President Museveni last May, severely and drastically restricts the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans to engage in public life or advocacy by expanding the definition of the “offense of homosexuality” and criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality.”

By upholding any part of this law, the Constitutional Court of Uganda has turned its back on the dignity of LGBTQ+ Ugandans and failed to heed the call of Ugandan human rights defenders and the international community that sought to uphold human rights. With this ruling, the Anti-Homosexuality Act leaves LGBTQ+ Ugandans at great risk of imprisonment and violence.

For the Constitutional Court of Uganda to uphold such a draconian law in any capacity is a horrific display of hatred that will mean further discrimination and physical harm for LGBTQ+ Ugandans. Over the last year, we have mourned the wave of violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community, and we know that this decision will only result in further damage. We at the Human Rights Campaign stand in solidarity with our partners and allies on the ground who have been tirelessly working to challenge this law while providing support to the LGBTQ+ community throughout the country. We will do everything in our power to uplift their voices and support their efforts as they fight against this grave injustice.

Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign

In the decision, as reported, the Constitutional Court only nullified four provisions of the law, despite the entirety of the law endangering the lives of those in the LGBTQ+ community. The judges struck down provisions that criminalized leasing homes to LGBTQ+ individuals or providing other premises, such as renting hotel rooms, for the “purposes of homosexuality,” as well as striking the provision that criminalized same-sex sexual relationships in which one of the partners has a terminal illness. Finally, the judges also nullified the dangerous duty to report provision that required individuals to report those perceived to be LGBTQ+ in the country.

LGBTQ+ Ugandans face high levels of discrimination and violence. Under the 1950 colonial-era Ugandan Penal Code, consensual same-sex sexual activity was criminalized with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.The portions of the law that were upheld by the court include the death penalty for some same-sex sexual relationships and criminalization of “promotion of homosexuality”.

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