Ugandan court might overturn anti-gay law tomorrow

Ugandan Constitutional Court session today. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson/Facebook)
Ugandan Constitutional Court session today. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson/Facebook)

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament (Photo courtesy of
Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament (Photo courtesy of

Ugandan opponents of the harsh new Anti-Homosexuality Act are hoping for an immediate victory tomorrow in their Constitutional Court challenge to the legitimacy of the law.
The court is expected to rule tomorrow on whether parliament acted  unlawfully last December when Speaker Rebecca Kadaga called for a vote on the bill when a quorum was lacking.
If the court agrees with that argument, the law is likely to be struck down. If the court disagrees, it will proceed to consider whether the law violates the Ugandan constitution.
The law provides for imprisonment for five to seven years for anyone convicted of “promoting homosexuality” or who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”  (See more provisions of the law in the article “Draconian details of Uganda’s misguided new anti-gay law.“)
The current challenge was brought by LGBT and human rights activists, legal experts and opposition politicians.
Nicholas Opiyo
Nicholas Opiyo

If the court agrees that Parliament broke procedural rules, plaintiffs’ attorney Nicholas Opiyo told BuzzFeed, “it appears … it will dispose of the entire case,” and “it looks likely” that it will decide that tomorrow (Thursday).
The following report on today’s proceedings was prepared by Adrian Jjuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum — Uganda (HRAPF), who chairs the legal committee of the gay-friendly Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Today, the Constitutional Court of Uganda heard the Petition against the Anti Homosexuality Act as planned.
Five of the Petitioners were in court: Prof. J Oloka-Onyango, Hon. Fox Odoi, Frank Mugisha, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera and HRAPF. They were represented by five counsel: Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Caleb Alaka, Francis Onyango, Nicholas Opiyo and Fridah Mutesi. The Attorney General was represented by Principal State Attorney (PSA), Ms. Patricia Mutesi.
Ugandan member of parliament Fox Odoi (Photo courtesy of
Ugandan member of parliament Fox Odoi (Photo courtesy of

Five Justices of the Constitutional Court [were present]: Hon. Justice S.B.K Kavuma, Hon. Justice A.S Nshimye, Hon. Justice Mwanguhya, Hon. Justice R Opio Aweri, and Hon. Lady Justice Solomy Balungi Bbossa.
The case started with the lead Counsel for the Petitioners, Mr. Rwakafuuzi introducing the legal team and the case for the petitioners, and informing court that the petitioners were ready to proceed.
The PSA raised an objection that the state was not ready to proceed since they had been granted up to 10th September to finalise preparations on the matter. She submitted that they intended to file supplementary affidavits. She wanted the heaing to be restricted to the applications for an interim injunction.
The Justices adjourned court for 20 minutes to deliberate on this. They returned with a ruling that since the state has not filed any application to file affidavits out of time, there was no basis for the PSA’s assertion. They ruled that the hearing of the Petition should go on.
The PSA then asked court to stay the hearing since they intended to appeal the ruling. The Court heard arguments on both sides and once again decided to proceed with the hearing. Court asked Counsel for the Petitioners to submit on Issue no. 1.
Counsel for the petitioners submitted on Issue No. 1 which is on quorum arguing that the Constitution requires the Parliament to have quorum as laid down in the Rules of Procedure before they can pass a bill into law. The Rules of Procedure require the Chairperson (Speaker) to ascertain quorum when the issue is raised. That this was not done in this case, and this makes the procedure through which the Bill was passed unconstitutional.
After submissions, Court adjourned the case for tomorrow July 31st at 9.30am.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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