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Uganda anti-gay law challenged in court

Uganda anti-gay law challenged in court

Uganda’s anti-gay law is to face scrutiny in the Constitutional Court.

A number of gay rights activists have joined together to challenge the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Fox Odoi, a member of parliament for West Budama North, as well as former opposition leader Ogenga Latigo, is among their number that filed the complaint today (11 March).

The draconian legislation, originally known as the ‘Kill All The Gays’ bill before the death penalty was removed, punishes homosexuality with life imprisonment.

The petitioners believe by regulating the behavior of gay and lesbian Ugandans while not regulating the behavior of heterosexuals, the Act violates article 21 of the constitution.

Article 21 ‘guarantees’ equality and freedom of discrimination.

Section 13 of the Act, which bans persons ‘promoting’ homosexuality, is also said to violate freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of association.

The gay rights activists have also filed a permanent injunction at the High Court to prevent any media house from publishing names and pictures of people alleged to be gay or lesbian since it violates their right to dignity.

The activists echo UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s ground-breaking 2012 LGBTI report in their court plea.

‘No personal opinion, no religious belief, no matter how deeply held or widely shared can ever justify depriving another human being of his or her basic rights,’ they told the court.

Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said today: ‘Happy to be among the petitioners #rightsideofhistory.’

And Pepe Julian Onziema, trans activist, said: ‘Today I am #PetitonerNo7 and #IAMGoingNowhere #AHA’

The Constitutional Court or High Court has yet to respond.

It is a powerful step in fight against the anti-gay law. LGBTI rights activists have had victories in the courts before, such as in 2010 when tabloid Rolling Stone was forced to pay out after it published several names and faces under the headline ‘HANG THEM’. The article led to the death of activist David Kato. 

The activists are hoping the Constitutional Court will not side with Uganda government spokesperson Ofwondo Opondo, who has defended the Act.

‘When the rant of gay activists is done over the Bill, the world will move on,’ Opondo said after it passed in December.

‘Those opposed to anti-gay bill should read article 91 Uganda constitution.’

Article 91 refers to parliament’s power to legislate and to create laws for the betterment of Ugandan society.