News (World)

Uganda’s highest court upholds its deadly “Kill the Gays” law

A Ugandan flag placed on the country in an African map
Photo: Shutterstock

Uganda’s Constitutional Court has upheld the country’s “Kill the Gays” law, refusing to annul or suspend the 2023 law which punishes consensual same-sex relations with life in prison and “aggravated homosexuality” with death. However, the court did find that parts of the law were “inconsistent with right to health, privacy and freedom of religion.”

The five-member court issued its unanimous 200-page ruling on Wednesday in response to a petition against the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 brought by two law professors from Makerere University in Kampala. The professors, who are human rights activists and legislators from President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement political party, said the law violates fundamental rights guaranteed in Uganda’s constitution, including freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy.

They also said the law violates Uganda’s commitments under international human rights treaties like the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The South China Morning Post reported. In addition to its punishments against homosexuality, it also mandates a 20-year prison sentence for individuals and organizations “promoting” homosexuality in Uganda. The court began hearing the case last December.

“[The court based its] decision on public sentiments, purported cultural values, and unfounded/unsubstantiated allegations of recruitment into homosexuality is strange, to say the least,” said human rights attorney Nicholas Opiyo.

“You come to court expecting it to rise above public bigotry and sentiments. To that extent, it is a letdown, but we will see what next steps can be taken,” he added.

The 2023 law has been called one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the world and has drawn international condemnation. President Joe Biden called for the law to be immediately repealed and removed Uganda from a 2000 trade pact known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Biden’s administration says it contributes to anti-LGBTQ+ persecution, but Ugandan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem accused Western nations of trying “to coerce us into accepting same-sex relationships using aid and loans.”

The United Nations and international aid groups also condemned the law, worried it could reverse decades of progress against AIDS in Africa. After Uganda passed the law, the World Bank began halting all loans to Uganda.

Last August, a 20-year-old Uganda who had sex with a 41-year-old man was the first to be arrested under the new law. Around the same time, four Ugandans at a massage parlor were arrested for “acts of homosexuality.”

In January, Steven Kabuye, a major LGBTQ+ activist, was brutally stabbed — he blamed Uganda’s anti-gay law. Speaking of the court’s ruling, Kabuye said the local LGBTQ+ community has “been pushed further in the darkness” as a result, adding, “The price of freedom to an ordinary LGBTQI+ Ugandan is death.”

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