Uganda Court Considers Anti-Gay Legislation, Verdict Awaited

The Constitutional Court of Uganda is set to deliver its verdict this Wednesday regarding a petition challenging a controversial anti-LGBTQ law, widely criticized for its severity and regarded as among the strictest globally.

Enacted in May of the previous year, the law sparked widespread condemnation from LGBTQ groups, human rights activists, the United Nations, and Western countries alike.

Dubbed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, the law mandates severe penalties, including life imprisonment for consensual same-sex activities, and introduces provisions designating “aggravated homosexuality” as a capital offense.

The administration of President Yoweri Museveni has maintained a resolute stance, with government officials asserting that Western nations are attempting to coerce Africa into embracing homosexuality.

Deputy Registrar Susanne Okeny Anyala disclosed on Tuesday that the Constitutional Court in Kampala will issue its verdict, starting from 10:00 am (0700 GMT). It began hearing the case in December.

Two law professors from Makerere University in Kampala, legislators from the ruling party, and human rights activists brought forward the petition, arguing that the law contravenes fundamental rights safeguarded by Uganda’s constitution, such as the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy.

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Additionally, the petitioners argue that the law contravenes Uganda’s obligations under international human rights law, such as the United Nations Convention against Torture. Moreover, the court will assess whether the law was passed following adequate consultation with Ugandan citizens, as mandated by the constitution.

In August of last year, a 20-year-old man became the first Ugandan to face charges of “aggravated homosexuality” under the controversial law. He was accused of engaging in “unlawful sexual intercourse with a male adult aged 41,” an offense that carries the death penalty.

Renowned for its conservative ideals and primarily Christian demographics, Uganda, located in East Africa, has become infamous for its lack of tolerance towards homosexuality.

It has resisted pressure from rights organisations, the United Nations and foreign governments to repeal the law.

The United States, which threatened to cut aid and investment to Kampala, imposed visa bans on unnamed officials in December for abusing human rights, including those of the LGBTQ community.

The World Bank announced in August it was suspending new loans to Uganda over the law, which “fundamentally contradicts” the values espoused by the international institution.

In December, Ugandan state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem accused the West of seeking “to coerce us into accepting same-sex relationships using aid and loans”.

During 2014, international donors drastically reduced aid to Uganda following President Museveni’s approval of legislation proposing life imprisonment for homosexual relations, a move that was later invalidated.

However, the most recent anti-gay legislation has garnered widespread backing in the conservative nation, with lawmakers arguing that the measures are essential safeguards against Western moral values.

Just last month, a Ugandan court dismissed an appeal from a gay rights organization seeking registration with the government, ruling that its intentions were to promote “unlawful” activities.

According to the Court of Appeal, the registration of Sexual Minorities Uganda would be detrimental to public interest and national policy.

Africa Today News, New York

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