Uganda’s Constitutional Court Dismisses Challenge To Strict Anti-Gay Law

In a decisive ruling on Wednesday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court has upheld the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, rejecting efforts to annul one of the world’s most stringent anti-gay laws.

Justice Richard Buteera, the deputy chief justice of Uganda, stated, “We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement,” marking a significant moment in the country’s legal history.

Adopted in May 2023, the legislation has sparked significant backlash from the LGBTQ community, human rights advocates, the United Nations, and several Western countries. The Act prescribes life imprisonment for consensual same-sex relations and establishes the death penalty for cases of “aggravated homosexuality.”

The Ugandan government, under President Yoweri Museveni, has maintained a firm stance, accusing Western nations of pressuring Africa to accept homosexuality. The legal challenge against the law was initiated by two Law Professors from Makerere University, Kampala, members of the ruling party, and human rights activists.

They argued that the law infringed upon constitutional rights, including freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy, and violated Uganda’s obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the United Nations convention against torture.

In August last year, a 20-year-old became the first individual charged under the law for “aggravated homosexuality,” facing the death penalty for engaging in sexual relations with a 41-year-old male. This case underscores Uganda’s continued intolerance towards homosexuality, with the country facing sustained criticism from rights groups, the UN, and foreign governments.

The United States and other international bodies have taken measures against Uganda, including visa bans on officials for human rights abuses and the suspension of new loans by the World Bank. These actions reflect the international community’s broader disapproval of the law, which they argue contradicts fundamental human rights values.

Despite international condemnation and threats of aid and loan withdrawal, support for the anti-gay law remains strong within Uganda. Lawmakers and a significant portion of the population view it as a defense against perceived Western immorality. This national consensus was further demonstrated last month when a Ugandan court rejected a gay rights group’s appeal for government registration, stating it would promote “unlawful” activities against public interest and national policy.

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