Friday, August 01, 2014

Uganda Constitutional Court Declares Anti-Homosexuality Act 'Null and Void'

Good news out of Uganda for the first time in a long while! The virulently homophobic Anti-Homosexuality Act was invalidated by a 5-judge panel of Uganda's Constitutional Court, because Parliament passed the bill last December when it lacked a quorum.

The Guardian reports:
A panel of five judges ruled on Friday that the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections that not enough MPs were in attendance. 
"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum," the court said in its ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally." 
While celebrating the ruling, activists warned that homosexuality remains a criminal offence in the east African country under colonial-era laws. 
The fiercely controversial statute represented a dramatic toughening of the penalties. It banned the "promotion of homosexuality" and enabled life sentences to be imposed for various same-sex acts, including touching in public or living in a same-sex marriage. 
The challenge to the law was brought by 10 petitioners, including academics, journalists, both ruling and opposition MPs, human rights activists and rights groups. They claimed that it violated the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. 
Friday's ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law "null and void". 
Among those present was Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda."We welcome this ruling and Uganda's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can celebrate a small victory against oppression," he said. 
"However, we are disappointed that the case was not heard on its true merits. The truth is that, not only is the anti-homosexuality act persecutory, it is also unconstitutional and illegitimate. This law has no place in our society, which values dignity, privacy and equality for all our citizens. Until the act has been dismissed on the substance of our arguments, we cannot rest easy."
Congratulations to the brave LGBT Ugandan activists on their legal victory! I'm sure we have not heard the last of this. But today, at least, is a day of celebration.

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