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Uganda

Anti-gay law has its days in court

Judges refuse to suspend an anti-LGBT bill but void some provisions inconsistent with human rights

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act will have at least one more round in court, and is set to move to the supreme court after the constitutional court upheld the law but struck down some of its provisions.

The court struck down sections of the bill that restricted healthcare access for LGBT people, criminalised renting property to LGBT people, and created an obligation to report alleged acts of homosexuality. However, it deemed that the law was compliant with the constitution.

A group of over 20 petitioners had challenged the bill at the constitutional court, arguing that it breached human rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the national constitution.

The bill has been strongly criticised by the international community, led by the United States and the European Union, with the World Bank moving last August to suspend new loans to Uganda. For its part, the International Monetary Fund warned last month that the bill could jeopardise the availability of external grants and loans.

Ghana, by contrast, has so far avoided such financial threats despite passing its own anti-gay law (Dispatches 2/5/23, Presidents face growing pressure on draconian anti-gay laws).

There is a precedent for the courts striking down anti-gay legislation. The constitutional court threw out a 2014 law on the grounds that parliament had not had the necessary quorum when it was passed. Despite the government's protestations, the bill was never re-opened. Uganda's penal code already criminalises homosexual relations with the threat of a life term in prison but this is rarely enforced (AC Vol 64 No 6, Doubling down on anti-gay bill). 

Under the law, people found guilty of the offense of homosexuality could be jailed for up to 10 years, while those found guilty of promotion of homosexuality could face a five-year prison term. The law also declares all same-sex conduct to be nonconsensual. The new law contains clauses that making what it describes as 'aggravated homosexuality' a capital offence.



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