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Ugandan Activists Fight Anti-Homosexuality Law in Court


Gay and human rights activists (L) file a constitutional petition against a new anti-homosexuality law, at the courts in Uganda's capital Kampala, March 11, 2014.

Gay and human rights activists (L) file a constitutional petition against a new anti-homosexuality law, at the courts in Uganda's capital Kampala, March 11, 2014.

Ugandan activists Tuesday filed a petition in the Constitutional Court challenging the country’s new anti-homosexuality law.

The petition, filed by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, challenges the act on a number of grounds.

Among other things, it says the act violates the principle of equality and non-discrimination, that the penalty of life imprisonment is disproportionate, and that the bill was passed without a parliamentary quorum.

It also asks that the media be prevented from publishing the names, pictures and addresses of alleged homosexuals, following a spate of public outings in local tabloids.

Petitioner Fox Odoi, a member of parliament, said he is helping to challenge the law as matter of political conscience. “There’s only one thing I fear: living in a society that has no room for minorities. I will not, by the grace of God, live in a society that does not respect and protect people who are different from the majority,” he said.

The act, signed by the Ugandan president last month, punishes certain homosexual acts by life in prison. It also criminalizes “promotion” of homosexuality and “aiding and abetting” homosexuality.

One petitioner said at least 10 arrests have been made in Kampala since parliament passed the bill in December, and a number of people have been evicted from their homes.

Civil liberties lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, one of the petitioners, said that although their case is strong, it is still possible the court could bend to Ugandan public opinion and uphold the controversial law.

“Ordinarily they shouldn’t take that into account, but we know that in practice it is possible for the courts to be persuaded by popular public outcry. But we trust that the courts will, in this case, concentrate and look at our pleadings and make a decision on the basis of the pleadings before it,” said Opiyo.

Odoi said the group has asked for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced while the case is before the court. He pointed out, though, that for now the law remains in effect.

The law has been condemned by human rights groups, the United States and several European nations. At least three countries -- Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands -- have said they will stop aid to the Ugandan government because of the law.
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