Ugandan court to rule on controversial anti-gay law on Wednesday

Lawyers Nicholas Opiyo (L) and Derrick Tukwasiibwe (C) interact with MP and petitioner against the anti-gay law, Fox-Odoi Oywelowo, at the Constitutional Court in Kampala on October 2, 2023.

Photo credit: Daily Monitor | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • There were four petitions before the Court, numbered 14, 15, 16 and 85 of 2023, although they were later merged into one.

The Constitutional Court in Kampala, Uganda is expected to deliver its verdict on the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill today, April 3.

In its notice of judgment - seen by the Monitor - sent to interested parties this morning, the court said the long-awaited verdict would be delivered from 10am.

“If no appearance is made on your behalf, by yourself/ your pleader or someone authorized by law to act for you, the judgment will be delivered in your absence,” a court judgment notice signed off by deputy registrar Susanne Okeny Anyala reads in part.

The court could either agree with the anti-gay petitioners and strike down the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 or, on the contrary, uphold it with its existing harsh punishments, including death by hanging, for those found guilty of aggravated homosexuality.

Four petitions were filed with the court, although they were later merged into one.

Judgment notices have since been sent to various law firms representing the petitioners, including Delux Associated Advocates, Onyango & Co. Advocates, Human Rights Awareness & Promotion Forum, Thomas & Michael Advocates, Sage Advocates, Akampumuza & Co. Advocates, Taslaf Advocates, Magna Advocates, Elgon Advocates and Tumukunde & Co. Advocates.

The Office of the Attorney General, as the sole respondent, were also served.

On December 18 last year, Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera led a panel of five judges who reserved judgment for a later date to allow them to consider the submissions of both the petitioners and the Attorney General.

The other judges were Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Muzamiru Kibeedi, Monica Mugenyi and Christopher Gashirabake.

The petitioners, including MP Fox Odoi, argued that Uganda's anti-gay law amended the same court's 2014 ruling that struck down similar legislation and was therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Ugandan Constitution.

The petitioners also argue that the Act was passed in six days instead of the 45 days required by parliamentary rules.

Similarly, they argue that Parliament enacted the said controversial law without meaningful and adequate public participation, which they claim is inconsistent and contrary to Articles 1, 2, 8A, 20, 36, 38, 79 and Objective 11 (1) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution.

But the Attorney General, who is the sole respondent in the four consolidated petitions, maintains that the provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act are not inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of Ugandan law, international treaties, covenants and declarations.

The government's chief legal adviser also insists that the bill does not in any way alter the 2014 Constitutional Court ruling.

He argues that the annulment of the then anti-gay legislation was based on the lack of a quorum in Parliament and did not address the substance of the legislation.

The Attorney General also defends the gay legislation because Parliament passed it after MPs had consulted widely with the public in the form of written and oral memoranda.

About the law

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

Penalties range from death for aggravated homosexuality to imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Since President Yoweri Museveni assented to the Bill in the middle of last year, there has been a backlash from the Western world, with some countries such as America cutting aid to Uganda.

In June last year, President Museveni said that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which he assented to on May 26 last year, had been misinterpreted.

He clarified that the Act 2023 prohibits the recruitment of non-gay people by homosexuals to practice homosexuality, exhibitionism and promotion of sexual orientation, and the performance of homosexual sex on another person.

The President also dismissed as untrue claims that the law would inhibit medical care or access for homosexuals, who are likely to go underground involuntarily, as no provision prevents a health worker from treating anyone.

Parliament Speaker Anita Among said that her attackers in the recent Parliament exhibition, an online campaign exposing corruption in the House, were homosexuals who were after her "for saying no to the practice in the country".