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Uganda’s Constitutional Court Declines to Block Anti-Gay Law But Sees Rights Infringed

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Law which was passed last May has been described as one of the harshest in the world, imposing penalties of up to life in prison for consensual same-sex relations and the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."

Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday largely upheld the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 for being in line with the values and the country’s Constitution.

However, the five justices struck out Sections 3 (2) C, 9, 11 (2)d, and 14 for being inconsistent with the Constitution as they violate the right to health, privacy, and freedom to religion.

“We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither do we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement,” ruled Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera on behalf of the panel of five justices.

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“We however declare that Section 3 (2)C, 9, 11 (2)d and 14 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 violate the right health, privacy and freedom to religion, which rights are respectively recognised in the universal declaration. This petition substantially fails with the following orders: Sections 3 (2)C, 9, 11 (2) d and 14 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act are hereby struck down. Each party bears its own costs. It’s so ordered,” she added.

The top court set December 11 to hear four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality Law that was enacted in May 2023 – a law that proscribes one of the world’s toughest punishments against LGBTQ persons.

The enactment drew protests and condemnation from Western countries including Washington, with many governments threatening actions. US President Joe Biden went further and struck off Uganda and three other African countries as beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

The Anti- Homosexuality Act, 2023 prescribes tough penalties for various offences including participating in promotion, facilitation, and failure to report acts of homosexuality.

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Penalties range from death for aggravated homosexuality to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.

In June last year, President Museveni said that the anti-gay law that he assented to on May 26 last year, had been misinterpreted.

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