Uganda: Activists challenge Anti-Homosexuality Act in court

A person in Uganda wears an LGBTQ+ Progressive Pride flag draped around their shoulders as they hold their hands in front of them in prayer

Activists and rights groups are taking Uganda’s government to court over its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act that has sparked horror and outrage across the globe.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in May, further restricts LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda and imposes the death penalty for so-called “aggravated” same-sex acts. Additionally, anyone found to have taken part in homosexual acts could face a life sentence.

The legislation has led to several queer arrests and sparked a wave of abuse and violence against LGBTQ+ people in the African country.

Several people hold up signs denouncing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and persecution in Uganda during a protest
Activists are challenging Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in court. (Getty)

Although Uganda was already one of several African nations where it is illegal to be queer and had already enacted an Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, this year’s revision has endangered LGBTQ+ people like never before.

This August, a 20-year-old man became the first person to be charged of “aggravated homosexuality” under the new law, for having “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man.

Although capital punishment was never officially abolished in Uganda, the country hasn’t carried out an execution since 2005.

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Now, LGBTQ+ rights groups are teaming up to challenge the abhorrent law and have it annulled, arguing that it violates citizens’ constitutional rights to equality and dignity.

Defendants, including Uganda’s attorney general and a Christian pastor, counter that the new law simply reflects the values of the country’s conservative, religious attitudes.

Court hearings began on Monday (18 December), in which a panel of five judges received written submissions from both prosecutors and defendants.

At the time of writing, no date has been set for the ruling.

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in May. (Credit: Getty)

Petitioners calling for the law to be annulled include professors from Makere University in Kampala and legislators from the National Resistance Movement party.

In their argument, they claim that there was not sufficient public consultation in the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Speaking to reporters after Monday’s court session, Nicholas Opiyo, a lawyer for the prosecution, said: “We hope the court will take the opportunity to address the question in the room, whether the Ugandan constitution protects every single member of our society irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

Opiyo added, per Reuters, that this court case was one of “national importance” and that his clients are hoping for a ruling before the end of the year.

“Our evidence includes a lot of chilling testimonies by victims of this law showing how it has affected their lives.”

Last month, activist Henry Mukiibi told PinkNews that, as a result of the Anti-Homsexuality Act, the situation in Uganda is worse than it has ever been.

Mukiibi, who is the executive director of the LGBTQ+ group Children of the Sun Foundation (COSF), says that people have become “so homophobic” that they’ve “started attacking” COSF committee members “because of who they are.”

The act has incited global outrage and prompted the United States to impose visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and the World Bank to halt all new loans to Uganda.

However, Uganda’s government has held firm and pledged not to bow down to the so-called “LGBT agenda.”

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