The anti-gay law in Uganda has been declared illegal and struck down by the country’s Constitutional Court in Kampala.
Despite a petition from campaigners who sought to delay the hearing, the ruling was made at 11:20am Friday (9:20 local time), overturning the legislation that had condemned LGBTI people to life in prison and those accused of harbouring them to as much as seven years.
“I am officially legal!” declared delighted activist Frank Mugisha.
Originally proposed in 2009 by MP David Bahati, the bill passed into law in December last year and is considered to be responsible for a significant rise in violence against LGBTI people including murders and the defilement of bodies exhumed from graves. A campaign against LGBTI people led by preachers such as Martin Ssempa sought to portray LGBTI people as monstrous and a threat to children.
In a packed court, a panel of five judges including Acting Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma, Justices, Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, Solomy Balungi Bossa and Rubby Aweri Opio unanimously struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on grounds that it was passed without the required quorum and that Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was warned by three people but ignored their concerns.
The court also awarded petitioners 50% of the costs of the suit. The case involved a group of pro-LGBTI campaigners who sued the Attorney General in March last year, challenging the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law for lack of quorum.
Petitioners include Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, and Frank Mugisha.
Other petitioners include local organisations such as the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, the Centre for Health and Human Rights and Development.