1 August 2014

Uganda: Constitutional Court Strikes Down Anti-Homosexuality Law

Photo: Flickr/Riekhavoc
Activists protesting Uganda anti-gay bill (file photo)

Uganda's top court has reversed a law that criminalizes homosexuality. The country's parliament passed the bill in February, prompting international outcry and sanctions from the United States.

The panel of judges in Uganda's Constitutional Court declared the country's anti-homosexuality law invalid on Friday. It cited improper parliamentary procedure in its ruling.

In December, the speaker of parliament allowed the bill's passage despite several objections from lawmakers. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni then signed it into law in February.

"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum," the court said on Friday. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally."

Under the legislation, Ugandans engaging in homosexual acts or involved in the "promotion" of homosexuality could be sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. Failure to report homosexual acts and protecting people who broke the law were also subject to prosecution.

The law set life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for "aggravated homosexuality." This category of offenses is defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving minors, a disabled person, or where one partner is infected with HIV.

"This is a great day for human rights... and sends a signal to governments around the world that the time of flagrant anti-discriminatory legislation is over," Anton Ofield-Kerr, the head of the organization HIV/AIDS Alliance, told news agency DPA.

Uganda has lost foreign aid from some foreign nations, while also being slapped with sanctions by Washington in the time since it approved the controversial bill.

(AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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