Coast clear for anti-gay Ugandan appeal to Supreme Court

Anti-gay forces in Uganda may be turning to the Supreme Court in hopes of restoring the overturned Anti-Homosexuality Act, despite reports that supporters of the law would only push for it in parliament.

Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF (Photo by Erwin Olaf via Facebook)
Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF (Photo by Erwin Olaf via Facebook)

“Despite all the talk about the Attorney General being instructed to withdraw the Notice of Appeal, this has not been in fact done,” Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), said in a statement.

“The Petitioners lawyers have never been served with a withdrawal notice and neither is there a withdrawal letter on the file at the Registry. So this implies that the Attorney General may go on with the Appeal,” Jjuuko said.

In mid-August, a caucus of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party announced that it accepted the Constitutional Court ruling that overturned the anti-gay law. That statement was seen as a sign that the government would not appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, as had been proposed.

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament (Photo courtesy of In2eastafrica.net)
Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament (Photo courtesy of In2eastafrica.net)

Parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga says that more than 200 legislators have signed a petition seeking a quick vote on a revived Anti-Homosexuality Bill rather than the typical 45-day delay required by standard parliamentary procedures.

But the NRM has called for a committee to study the overturned law and make a recommendation this month about what the next steps should be.

Before it was overturned on procedural grounds, the Anti-Homosexuality Act provided for:

    • Life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy involving penetration — the same punishment currently provided under existing Ugandan law.
    • Life imprisonment for anyone who “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
    • Forced medical examinations for anyone accused of being HIV-positive and of committing homosexual acts, which is termed “aggravated homosexuality,” also punishable by life imprisonment.
    • Seven years in prison for attempts at committing “the offense of homosexuality.”
    • Life imprisonment for HIV-positive people who attempt to commit “the offense of homosexuality.”
    • Seven years in prison for anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality.” LGBT rights activists fear that this provision and the next one will be used against them.
    • Life imprisonment for same-sex marriage. (The Ugandan constitution already prohibited same-sex marriage.)
    • Up to seven years in prison for conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
    • Imprisonment for seven years for the “director or proprietor or promoter” of a company or association that is convicted of “promoting homosexuality.” In addition, the organization’s certificate of registration would be canceled.

    The law also provided for five to seven years in prison for:

    • Anyone who “attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
    • Publishing “pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality.”
    • Anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities.”
    • Anyone who “offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality.” Landlords who rent to LGBT rights groups are liable to imprisonment too.
    • Anyone who “uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality.”

    Ugandan law had already called for life imprisonment for homosexual activity, but that law had been rarely used until the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed last December.

    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 info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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