Uganda’s court to decide fate of controversial anti-gay act on Wednesday

On Wednesday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court is poised to render a historic judgment in a pivotal case challenging the nation’s anti-gay legislation, which stands as one of the most severe in a global context.

Enacted in May of the previous year, the law has ignited widespread condemnation from human rights activists, the United Nations, and Western nations.

Dubbed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, it imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for consensual same-sex relationships, while also criminalizing “aggravated homosexuality” with the possibility of capital punishment.

President Yoweri Museveni’s administration has maintained a resolute stance, accusing Western powers of attempting to impose acceptance of homosexuality onto Africa.

The Constitutional Court in Kampala will issue its verdict from 10 am (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, deputy registrar Susanne Okeny Anyala announced on Tuesday.

The court challenge was brought by two law professors from Makerere University in Kampala, legislators from the ruling party and human rights activists seeking to overturn the law.

They say it violates fundamental rights guaranteed by Uganda’s constitution, including freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy.

The petitioners also say it contravenes Uganda’s commitments under international human rights law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture.

In issuing its long-awaited verdict, the court will also determine whether the law was passed after sufficient consultation with Ugandan citizens, as required by the constitution.

West trying to ‘coerce us’

A 20-year-old man became the first Ugandan to be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” under the contested law in August last year.

He was accused of “unlawful sexual intercourse with… (a) male adult aged 41”, an offence punishable by death.

Uganda, a conservative predominantly Christian country in East Africa, is notorious for its intolerance of homosexuality.

It has resisted pressure from rights organisations, the United Nations and foreign governments to repeal the law.

The United States, which threatened to cut aid and investment to Kampala, imposed visa bans on unnamed officials in December for abusing human rights, including those of the LGBTQ community.

The World Bank announced in August it was suspending new loans to Uganda over the law, which “fundamentally contradicts” the values espoused by the US-based lender.

In December, Ugandan state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem, accused the West of seeking “to coerce us into accepting same-sex relationships using aid and loans”.

In 2014, international donors slashed aid to Uganda after Museveni approved a bill that sought to impose life imprisonment for homosexual relations, which was later overturned.

But the latest anti-gay law has enjoyed broad support in the conservative country, where lawmakers have defended the measures as a necessary bulwark against Western immorality.

Last month, a Ugandan court dismissed an appeal by a gay rights group seeking government registration, ruling that it aimed to promote “unlawful” activities.

The Court of Appeal said any registration of the group Sexual Minorities Uganda was against the public interest and national policy.

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