For Immediate Release: August 1 2014
Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Act:
A Victory for the Human Rights of All Ugandans
(Kampala, Uganda) Health GAP reacted to today’s ruling in Uganda’s Constitutional Court striking down the Anti Homosexuality Act: “Today lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender Ugandans along with all human rights defenders in Uganda have scored a decisive victory against the politics of scapegoating and the politics of hate,” said Asia Russell, Director of International Policy at Health GAP. “Parliament is not above the law and the Constitution guarantees fundamental rights for all Ugandans—no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Parliament passed the bill on December 20, 2013 and President Museveni signed the bill into law on February 24, 2014, despite earlier public pledges that he would not assent to the bill. It is widely believed that he reversed his position in an effort to strengthen his chances in 2016 for reelection as President.
The law, which is now nullified, increased the punishment for same sex acts between consenting adults to life in prison and criminalised ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and ‘aiding and abetting’ of homosexuality with 7 years’ imprisonment and hefty fines. These crimes were defined so broadly as to criminalize provision of essential health and social services, such as HIV prevention and treatment. Uganda’s Penal Code Act already includes colonial-era provisions criminalizing “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” Today’s ruling does not affect that pre-existing law.
Today’s ruling was also hailed as a crucial development for increased access to life saving health services: Uganda is one of the only countries in East Africa reporting recent increases in HIV incidence. Criminalised populations including gay men, sex workers, transgender women and drug users are at higher risk of HIV infection and disease progression as well as violence and abuse. For example, gay men in Kampala have an estimated HIV prevalence of 13%, more than three times the prevalence of other men.
Today’s ruling comes as a result of a case filed March 10, 2014 in Uganda’s Constitutional Court by ten petitioners, including Ugandan politicians, human rights activists, and legal experts. The petition argued that the law violates Ugandans’ constitutionally guaranteed human rights, including freedom from discrimination and freedom of expression. (The petition is available at ugandans4rights.org.)
“This decision is a bright spot in a dark record on human rights,” continued Russell. “It is the bravery and courage of gay and trans Ugandan activists that we have to thank for this decision. But we cannot rest—we must continue work to realize health and human rights for all, in Uganda and in other countries around the world that criminalize the sexual behaviour of consenting adults.”
According to activists, the signing of the law is part of a pattern of troubling actions indicating a deteriorating environment for human rights in Uganda, including the recent passage by Parliament of the HIV Prevention and Management Bill, which would criminalize people living with HIV.
“Today in Uganda we are still far from that reality—for example the HIV Prevention and and Management Bill, which would criminalise people living with HIV and undermine the national AIDS response, is awaiting signature by President Museveni. He should reject this flawed Bill without delay and recommend Parliament eliminate its provisions on HIV criminalization, mandatory HIV testing and mandatory HIV reporting.”
Contact for more information: Asia Russell, Health GAP +256 776 574 729 (Uganda mobile) or +1 267 475 2645 [email protected]