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Top Ugandan court upholds anti-gay law

April 3, 2024

Uganda's Constitutional Court has rejected a bid to overturn its 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Human rights activists stand outside the Ugandan Constitutional Court
The draconian Ugandan stance is supported by many in the East African country but widely condemned by rights groups and others abroad Image: Hajarah Nalwadda/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Uganda's Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld an anti-gay law that has caused widespread outrage in much of the rest of the world for its severity.  

"We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement," Justice Richard Buteera, Uganda's deputy chief justice and head of the court, said in the landmark ruling.

The law imposes penalties of up to life sentences for consensual same-sex relations and contains provisions that make "aggravated homosexuality" a capital offense.

The petition to have the law overturned was brought by two law professors from Makerere University in Kampala, legislators from the ruling party and human rights activists.

What did the petitioners argue?

The court began hearing the case in December.

The petitioners argued that the law violated basic rights enshrined in Uganda's constitution, such as protection from discrimination and the right to privacy.  

In addition, they said, the law goes against Uganda's commitments under international human rights law, including the UN Convention against Torture.

Ugandan could face death penalty under anti-gay law

International backlash

The law enjoys wide support in the conservative Christian country, with politicians claiming it protects Uganda from "immoral" Western trends.

But the United Nations, Western nations, the LGBTQ community and rights campaigners have slammed the legislation as cruel and unfounded.

The United States imposed visa bans on unnamed officials in December for abusing human rights, including those of the LGBTQ community.

The World Bank announced in August that it would suspend new loans to the country because of the law, saying that it "fundamentally" contradicted the lender's values.  

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

In August last year, a 20-year-old man became the first Ugandan to be charged with "aggravated homosexuality" under the law in August, and thus potentially faces a death sentence.

tj/ab (AFP, Reuters)