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Uganda court upholds anti-LGBTQ + law in ‘extremely dangerous’ decision

The court's decision "leaves Uganda firmly on the wrong side of history," said Téa Braun, the Human Dignity Trust's Chief Executive

By Alastair James

Ugandan flag (Image: Timothy Nkwasibwe/Pexels)

The decision by the Uganda Constitutional Court to uphold the country’s anti LGBTQ+ law has been branded as “extremely dangerous.”

On Wednesday (3 April) the court dismissed a challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) 2023. Those behind the challenge argued the law violates the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Reacting to the court’s decision, the Human Dignity Trust, which supports such challenges to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, called the move “extremely dangerous”. Téa Braun, the Trust’s Chief Executive said in a statement: “In choosing to uphold this egregious piece of legislation, the Court has denied the basic rights of LGBT people protected under Uganda’s own Constitution and the international human rights treaties that Uganda has ratified.  

“This judgment is extremely dangerous for LGBT Ugandans, whose only wish is to live in dignity, equality and with the freedom to express who they are and who they love like everyone else.” Braun added that the court’s decision “flies in the face of the unassailable legal principles in those and other cases.” He also said it “leaves Uganda firmly on the wrong side of history.”

In the court’s judgement it reads that the AHA does not violate Uganda’s constitution. The court then declined to “nullify” the law or “grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement.” However, provisions in the AHA such as the duty to report suspected acts of homosexuality to the police, as well as a prohibition on allowing the use of premises for any offence under the AHA, and giving the death sentence for the transmission of HIV, were struck down. The court stated they were “inconsistent with the right to health.” They also infringed “the right to health, privacy, and freedom of religion.” As per Reuters, these bits will have to be removed from the AHA.

The AHA came into effect in May 2023. Building on colonial era laws the AHA includes life imprisonment for the offence of homosexuality. Meanwhile, it makes ‘aggravated homosexuality’ punishable with the death penalty. The ‘promotion’ of homosexuality is also punishable with up to 20 years in prison. An early version of the legislation had sought to criminalise people for simply being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Since being introduced Uganda has been subject to strong condemnation internationally. In a statement on Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said “close to 600 people are reported to have been subjected to human rights violations and abuses based on their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity” since May 2023.

As per Reuters, those who brought the challenge to the AHA are appealing Wednesday’s decision.