Uganda Constitutional Court declines to block anti-gay law but sees rights infringed

Wednesday April 03 2024

People hold placards during a demonstration against the proposed new Ugandan anti-gay legislation which makes homesexuality illegal and punishable by harsh sentences for people identifying as LGBTQ+ in Pretoria, South Africa on March 31, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


Uganda's Constitutional Court on Wednesday largely upheld the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 for being in line with the values and the country's Constitution.

However, the five justices struck out Sections 3 (2) C, 9, 11 (2)d and 14 for being inconsistent with the Constitution as they violate the right to health, privacy and freedom to religion.

"We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither do we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement," ruled Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera on behalf of the panel of five justices.

Read: Uganda fights off pressure over anti-gay law

"We however declare that Section 3 (2)C, 9, 11 (2)d and 14 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 violate the right health, privacy and freedom to religion, which rights are respectively recognised in the universal declaration. This petition substantially fails with the following orders: Sections 3 (2)C, 9, 11 (2) d and 14 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act are hereby struck down. Each party bears its own costs. It's so ordered," she added.

The top court set December 11 to hear four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality Law that was enacted in May 2023.


The enactment drew protests and condemnation from Western capitals including Washington, with many governments threatening actions. US President Joe Biden went further and struck off Kampla and three other African countries as beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

The law was enacted majorly to protect the children in schools who were being recruited into homosexuality practices.

Tough penalties

The Anti- Homosexuality Act, 2023 prescribes tough penalties for various offences including participating in promotion, facilitation, and failure to report acts of homosexuality.

Penalties range from death for aggravated homosexuality to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.

Ever since the assent to the anti-gay legislation by President Yoweri Museveni mid-last year, there has been backlash from the Western countries, with some nations like the US cutting aid to Uganda.

In June last year, President Museveni said that the anti-gay law had been misinterpreted.

He clarified that the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 forbids recruitment by homosexuals of non-gay people into the practice of homosexuality, exhibitionism and promotion of sexual orientation, and performing homosexual sex on another person.

He also dismissed claims that the law would inhibit medical care or access for homosexuals, who are likely to involuntarily go underground, as untrue because no provision prevents a health worker from treating any person.

Read: Fears over Uganda anti-gay law threaten HIV progress

The petitioners

The petitioners in petition 14 include MP Fox Odoi, Frank Mugisha, Pepe Onziema, Jackline Kemigisha, Andrew Mwenda, Kintu Nyango, Jane Nasiimbwa, and Kwizera Linda Mutesi. Vs AG

Petitioners in petition number 15 are; Prof Sylvia Tamale, Andrew Mwenda, Dr Busingye Kabumba, Solome Nakaweesi, Kasha Jackline Nabagesera, Richard Smith Lusimbo, Eric Ndawura, Williams Apako and Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum VS AG.

Those in petition number 16 are Robert Rutaro, Musiime Alex Martin, Solomon Nabuyanda, and Let's Walk Uganda Ltd VS AG.

The petitioner in petition number 85 is; Bishop James Lubega Banda VS AG.