Constitutional Court of Uganda Strikes down Anti-Homosexuality Act

London, 4 August 2014

On 1 August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 as null and void following the failure of the Parliament of Uganda to observe the constitutional quoracy requirement during the legislation’s passage. The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has welcomed the decision of the Court which strikes from the statute book legislation which violated a number of fundamental human rights and which further entrenched the profound discrimination and gross inequality suffered by LGBT people in Uganda. 

The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, signed into law by President Museveni in February, was considered to be some of the most homophobic legislation in the world with heavy punishments for same-sex sexual activity and severe limitations on the activities of LGBT organisations. The Act created a number of offences including “homosexuality”, various forms of “aggravated homosexuality”, and participation in a same-sex marriage – all of which were punishable by life imprisonment – as well as the “promotion” of homosexuality, punishable with up to seven years’ imprisonment. 

The Equal Rights Trust had repeatedly lobbied both the Parliament and the President of Uganda since 2009, urging that the proposed legislation not be adopted. In a comprehensive legal analysis of 2009, ERT had highlighted how the legislation violated a number of Uganda’s international human rights obligations as well as provisions of the Constitution of Uganda itself. Despite these calls and those of other concerned stakeholders, the legislation was passed by the Parliament in January 2014 and signed by President Museveni a few weeks later. 

The decision of the Constitutional Court focused on the failure of the Parliament to observe the requirement that Parliament be quorate when legislation is passed. In concluding that the legislation had not been passed in accordance with this procedural requirements set out in the Constitution, the Court struck down the law without addressing the substance of the legislation and its compatibility with the Constitution. 

Responding to the judgment, Executive Director of ERT, Dimitrina Petrova, said: 

We are delighted that the Constitutional Court has struck down this pernicious legislation. The law violated many fundamental human rights of LGBT people in Uganda including the right to a private life, the right to dignity and the right to equality. We note that the legislation was found unconstitutional on procedural grounds rather than for its substance and so urge the government of Uganda not to attempt to re-enact the law. 

As we celebrate this victory, it is important to remember that LGBT people in Uganda continue to suffer profound discrimination and gross inequality, not least through the criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity. We will continue to call for greater protection and respect for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda, notwithstanding today’s decision.

To read ERT's legal analysis of the legislation, click here.

The decision of the Constitutional Court is not yet available.