Human rights activists in Uganda have taken legal action by filing a constitutional court challenge against the country’s appalling new Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The petition was submitted on Monday, shortly after President Yoweri Museveni confirmed his signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.
The petitioners include the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), Convening For Equality (CFE), as well as prominent activists Frank Mugisha and Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. The respondent named is the Attorney General of Uganda.
“The bill, by criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity among adults goes against key provisions of the constitution, including violating the right to equality [and] violating the right to dignity,” Human rights lawyer Adrian Jjuuko told journalists.
Jjuuko also highlighted the lack of adequate public participation before the bill’s passing, emphasising the importance of involving those most affected when creating laws. He noted that not a single LGBTI person had the opportunity to address the committee during the bill’s discussions.
In a statement, US President Joe Biden described the law as “a tragic violation of universal human rights,” warning that it jeopardises the country’s potential for critical economic growth.
Biden announced that the US would assess its ability to continue delivering services funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Furthermore, the US will evaluate other forms of assistance and investments. Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) will also be reviewed in light of the law’s enactment.
President Biden said that additional measures, including sanctions and travel restrictions, would be considered against Ugandan individuals involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption.
During the debate of the bill’s second version in early May, Ugandan MPs displayed defiance, stating that threats of international sanctions or aid withdrawal would not deter them from passing the bill.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment for engaging in a homosexual sexual act, the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality (such as repeated offenses), and a 20-year prison term for “promoting” or advocating for LGBTIQ+ rights.
Minors convicted of engaging in a homosexual sexual act face three years in prison, and anyone providing accommodation for an LGBTIQ+ person can be jailed for up to seven years.