Uganda’s Constitutional Court Upholds Controversial Anti-Gay Law, Sparking Outrage from LGBT Activists

Kampala, Uganda – Uganda’s constitutional court has made a ruling regarding the country’s controversial anti-gay law. On Wednesday, the court declined to annul or grant a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the law, which has been met with fierce opposition from the LGBT community and human rights activists. The judges acknowledged that the law does infringe on certain fundamental human rights, but ultimately decided against nullifying it.

The case before the court involved petitioners who were questioning the law’s violation of equal protection for all Ugandans. However, the panel of five judges, led by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, made the surprising announcement. They stated, “We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety; neither would we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement.”

In their ruling, the Constitutional Court judges recognized that the law aimed to protect children, particularly in cases involving recruitment and exploitation. Nevertheless, they did find that certain aspects of the law impinged on rights. Specifically, they noted that sections of the law would hinder access to health services, including anti-HIV treatment, for members of the LGBT community. As a result, those sections were nullified.

The ruling has sparked strong reactions from both sides. Lawyer Nicholas Opio criticized the judgment, arguing that it effectively legitimizes discrimination against LGBT individuals. He expressed concern that exclusion from participation in the country’s affairs based on public sentiment and cultural values is now deemed lawful. Opio called the ruling a failed attempt at balance and highlighted the challenges faced by the LGBT community in accessing healthcare and defending their existence.

Eric Ndawula, an LGBT activist, shared his disappointment with the court’s decision. He suggested that the judges relied on perceptions rather than factual evidence in their consideration of issues such as recruitment. Ndawula described it as a sad day for the community.

While this ruling is a setback for advocates of LGBTQ rights in Uganda, the petitioners still have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen if they will pursue this legal avenue.

The law itself, which went into effect in May of last year, carries severe punishments for engaging in homosexual acts, including life imprisonment. It even imposes the death penalty for what it labels as “aggravated homosexuality,” including sexual relations involving individuals infected with HIV, as well as those involving vulnerable groups such as minors and the elderly.

Uganda’s anti-gay law has faced significant criticism from gay activists and numerous foreign governments, who argue that it violates human rights. Among them is the Biden administration, which has been vocal in its condemnation of the law.

The ruling by Uganda’s constitutional court, while disappointing for the LGBT community, has once again brought the spotlight on the ongoing debate over human rights and discrimination in the country. The repercussions of this decision will continue to reverberate, both within Uganda and on the international stage.