Uganda: Appeal Court Upholds Ban on LGBTQ+ Group


The Appeal Court in Uganda has upheld the government’s refusal to register an LGBTQ+ rights group because LGBTQ+ people are deemed criminals in the country.

A panel of three judges on Tuesday ruled against an appeal by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a leading LGBTQ+ rights group that the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) refused to register as far back as 2012.

In August 2022, the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations shut down SMUG on the basis that it was not registered and was thus “operating illegally”.

In Tuesday’s judgment, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire wrote that an earlier 2018 high court ruling in favour of the URSB’s refusal to register SMUG was in “the public interest” because under Ugandan law, same-sex sexual activity is illegal.

As such, the URSB was legally justified in declining the registration of an organisation that would effectively be promoting and advocating for the rights of people engaging in “criminal acts.”

Another Blow to LGBTQ+ Equality in Uganda

The ruling effectively bars SMUG from legally operating in Uganda. It is a major setback in the fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination and a blow to the right to freedom of association and for groups to advocate for their own interests.

Dr Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of SMUG, remains resolute amidst the disappointing development. 

“Despite the judiciary’s conservative tilt and susceptibility to public sentiment, our commitment to championing LGBTQ rights remains resolute. Our constitutional rights to assembly and association are immutable, and we shall continue our advocacy, both within courtrooms and across society,” he said in a statement.

Reflecting on the broader implications, former SMUG Board Member Dennis Wamala lamented, “The Court of Appeal’s decision reinforces state-sanctioned discrimination against sexual minorities, compromising fundamental rights to expression and association. This constitutional challenge warrants urgent review by the Supreme Court.”

Mugisha added: “We are fully committed to elevating this challenge to the next level. After thorough debriefing, we will communicate our next strategic steps.”

In a separate case, LGBTQ+ Ugandans are on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of a Constitutional Court challenge to the country’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was signed into law in May 2023.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend