The Constitutional Court of Uganda has tentatively scheduled December 18 as the commencement date for the landmark trial challenging the constitutionality of the country’s inhuman Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Monday’s announcement follows an earlier agreement between the parties to consolidate the four petitions challenging the draconian law, along with 11 other related applications filed with the court.
In final preparations ahead of the December 18 hearing, a panel of five justices will sit on December 13 to determine all applications of the various Amici Curiae (friends of the court) and persons who wish to be added as co-respondents to the consolidated petition.
The petitions were lodged by human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders, and academics shortly after President Yoweri Museveni signed the law in May of this year.
They argue that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violates constitutional rights such as the rights to privacy, freedom of thought, conscience, belief, and freedom from discrimination.
They further assert that the law contravenes several international human rights treaties and that the legislation was rushed through parliament without adequate public consultation, particularly with the LGBTQ+ community.
“This law serves no legitimate purpose. It is a blatant attack on basic rights enshrined in both our Constitution and international human rights law, further erodes our democracy and obstructs access to essential health services,” said Richard Lusimbo, of Uganda Key Populations Consortium and Convening For Equality (CFE) Co-convener in a statement. “All eyes should now be on Uganda’s Constitutional Court to nullify it without delay.”
In 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda invalidated an earlier version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds, citing insufficient MPs present during the vote.
Human Rights Watch has described the Anti-Homosexuality Act as “one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBT laws.”
It imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment for engaging in homosexual acts and the death penalty for “aggravated” homosexuality.
The law also criminalises the so-called “promotion of homosexuality,” which could see human rights defenders who advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ people being jailed for up to 20 years.
Even landlords can face up to seven years in prison if they knowingly allow their premises to be used by LGBTQ+ people who engage in intimate relationships.
“This unconstitutional law is being used to attempt to distract us from everyday priorities such as the fight against corruption, failing healthcare systems, unemployment, and the unbearably high cost of living. It must be overturned,” asserted Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda, and CFE Co-Convener.
In 2023, Uganda witnessed a disturbing array of abuses perpetrated by both government and private entities. These egregious acts have included torture through forced anal/rectum exams on orders of the police officers, beatings, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, blackmail, loss of employment, challenges in accessing healthcare services, and physical, sexual and psychological violence as a result of the enactment of the abhorrent law.