Ugandan Court Quashes The Country’s Anti-Gay Law

Ugandan Court Quashes The Country’s Anti-Gay Law

Uganda’s constitutional court on Friday overturned tough new anti-gay laws that had been branded draconian and “abominable” by rights groups, saying they had been wrongly passed by parliament.

The law is “null and void,” presiding judge Steven Kavuma told the court, saying the process had contravened the constitution, as it has been passed in parliament in December without the necessary quorum of lawmakers.

Cheering gay rights activists celebrated the ruling, but supporters of the law said they would appeal at the Supreme Court.

“Justice prevailed, we won,” said lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, who led the challenge in the constitutional court.

“The retrogressive anti-homosexuality act of Uganda has been struck down by the constitutional court — it’s now dead as a door nail,” said Andrew Mwenda, one of 10 petitioners.

The law, signed by Uganda’s veteran President Yoweri Museveni in February, said that homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlawed the promotion of homosexuality and obliged Ugandans to denounce gays to the authorities.

US Secretary of State John Kerry likened the law to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany, and Western nations made a raft of aid cuts to Uganda’s government.

But homosexuality in Uganda remains illegal and punishable by jail sentences under previous legislation, which is expected to return after the court’s decision.

Critics have said Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the law — as it is on paper — remains valid, saying it had been struck down on a matter of procedure and not over its content. “The ruling has not nullified the anti-homosexuality law, it only ruled on the validity of the procedure in parliament,” he said.

But gay rights activists were celebrating.

“I am no longer a criminal, today we have made history for generations to come,” said Kasha Jacqueline, another petitioner and a prominent gay rights activist.

“I am officially legal,” said Frank Mugisha, another petitioner, but admitting despite his “celebration mood” the ruling was only the “beginning of a very long battle”. “The law has been struck on technicalities, so the big picture is still there,” he said.

Lawmakers could seek to reintroduce a bill to parliament, a potentially lengthy process, with the last such bill taking four years from introduction to the final vote.

Rights groups, who said the law triggered a sharp increase in arrests and assaults of members of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, welcomed the decision.

“We are pleased that this law cannot be enforced and entrench further abuses and discrimination,” said Maria Burnett from Human Rights Watch.

“Even though Uganda’s abominable anti-homosexuality act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law,” Amnesty International said.

Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence.

The 10 petitioners — including two Ugandan rights organisations — had also claimed that the law violated the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

But the judges stuck down the law based on only the first section, the issue of quorum, before any of those issues were discussed.

First Kenya took the law into its own hands. Then Uganda petitioned for its own justice. Again, I bemoan you, Nigeria. Will you ever know such justice?

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12 Comments

  1. Fitzgerald
    August 01, 16:52 Reply

    Hehehe… I cannot wait to see the Part 2 of this action-packed, thrilling movie. The first of its kind in Africa. I wish we Nigerians can stand up for our rights like this.

  2. Absalom
    August 01, 17:19 Reply

    Homosexuality still remains crime under their sodomy laws. There may be backlash – including another effort to re-sponsor a bill to this effect. Meanwhile…backing my bags in case Uganda becomes the new queer heaven!

  3. Micky
    August 01, 17:23 Reply

    Now that’s some good news there!

  4. lluvmua
    August 01, 17:34 Reply

    #sadface Hmmmmmmmm @Nigeria wen will thou ever ever know such justice??? #happy 4 the lgbt in uganda

  5. Lothario
    August 01, 17:37 Reply

    Oh….I think this celebration is a bit too premature, technicalities – which means that they can still be arrested. See that one gushing about being legal….. Chai! Biko oooooo be safe!

  6. trystham
    August 01, 19:30 Reply

    Yay!!!! But wait. Is this just cos of their internal efforrs or as a result of external pressure???

    • Absalom
      August 01, 21:16 Reply

      There are many underhand reasons why this quashing succeeded – including that it might be a ploy for the sit-tight president to win some points in global politics. But the apparent reason the law got thrashed was because it didn’t follow due process to become an act. We’ll wait and see.

  7. therealsalte
    August 01, 21:03 Reply

    First I commend the fighting spirit and the will to survive. Secondly, I believe this is the beginning of a long history making terror. Thirdly, all of u guys asking and calling on naija lgbt to be like kenya n uganda lgbt’s plz I ask are u from which country? Once u start the struggle to emancipate gays in Nigeria I will be ur No.1 sponsor n supporter. P.S I need a good neat Top around Olodi apapa to be my bff.

  8. Chizzie
    August 02, 07:24 Reply

    I hope this inspires us to go out on the streets with placards regardless of the consequences; chatting “Gays need equal rights! !”…or not

  9. Khaleesi
    August 02, 10:16 Reply

    my issue is that this law was struck down only on the basis of technicalities I.e that it was not passed in the appropriate manner. the judges did not go into the issue of whether the law violated any human rights, and this in my opinion is the major issue in this obnoxious piece of legislation. this simply means that if the Ugandan lawmakers are determined, they can simply re-introduce this bill and then proceed to pass it via the constitutionally provided means. above all, this striking down is merely symbolic as it does absolutely nothing to eliminate homophobia, intimidation, threats of violence and murderous attacks carried out against gay people in Uganda. I honestly think this will gain the Ugandan President some cheap political points as well as restore diplomatic relations b/w Uganda and the West but in reality, very little on the ground will change … as for Nigerian LGBT, we are largely a bunch of cowards (myself inclusive) who are too conditioned by our socio-cultural circumstances to attempt to disrupt the status quo , not that I blame any of us though…

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