Uganda’s Constitutional Court has nullified the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act, in a move widely viewed as a victory for the country’s gays:
Maria Burnett, a senior researcher in the Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division, said in a written statement that Friday’s decision was a “critical step forward” for LGBT rights. “We are pleased that this law cannot be enforced and entrench further abuses and discrimination.” Neela Ghoshal, another senior researcher with the HRW, tells Vox that the LGBTI community in East Africa is currently “breathing a huge sigh of relief” because of Friday’s rulings. “That law has cast a shadow over every LGBTI activist and ordinary person’s lives in Uganda and the wider region for the past six months. Now, there’s a sense a space for LGBTI people has opened up.”
Mark Joseph Stern reacts with cautious cheer:
The legal triumph of the ruling was tempered somewhat by the fact that the court did not rule on the merits of the case.
Rather, the judges held that parliament had not reached a quorum when the bill was passed, a technicality that renders the law a nullity. The ruling, then, is obviously problematic, as it implies that if parliament simply re-passes the bill with the requisite quorum, it might be constitutionally valid.
Still, the petitioners who brought the case, including journalist Andrew Mwenda, were celebrating a total victory on Friday, declaring the measure “dead as a door nail.”
But Capehart emphasizes that Uganda remains a difficult place to be gay:
Now that the “anti-homosexuality” law has been tossed, the penalty of 14 years for a first-time offense and life imprisonment for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” is gone. So is the threat of arrest for “promoting homosexuality” or not reporting a gay or lesbian person to the authorities. But a colonial-era law that criminalizes gay sex remains on the books. And as Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for Human Rights Campaign, said, “Uganda’s Parliament could seek to once again further enshrine anti-LGBT bigotry into its nation’s law.”
Elias Biryabarema believes the move will probably boost Uganda’s standing in the world, and its economy:
The World Bank and some European donors – Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands – withheld aid or loans worth more than $118 million. Sweden resumed financial support to Uganda this week. Uganda relies on aid to fund about 20 percent of its budget. The Ugandan shilling came under pressure when the law was passed. On Friday, it rose, with banks cutting long dollar positions on expectations of a resumption in aid. …
The United States, Uganda’s biggest donor, [had] called the legislation “atrocious”, likening it to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa. When it was passed, Washington said it would review relations with Kampala. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is scheduled to travel to the United States next week for a summit of African leaders hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.
(Photo: Ugandans react to the announcement that the Constitutional Court has overturned anti-gay laws in Kampala on August 1, 2014. By Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images)