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March 14, 2014

Petitioners Point to Ugandan Constitution for Repeal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act

By Simone Salvo

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Since Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law on February 24, 2014, there has been a reported stream of perfunctory arrests, evictions, and threats of violence. So long as this law remains intact, LGBT Ugandans and their allies remain at heightened risk of harassment, violence, and imprisonment.

In a petition to Uganda’s Constitutional Court filed on March 11, 2014, The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional law, formed by eight prominent Ugandans and several rights groups, contends that the discriminatory law violates fundamental rights – namely equality and freedom from discrimination; respect for human dignity and the protection from inhuman treatment; right to privacy of person, home and other property; protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association; right to a fair hearing; protection of rights of minorities; and civic rights and activities – stipulated in Chapter Four of the Constitution of Uganda.

These objectors are appealing not only to reason; but also Uganda’s own constitution. Petitioners have also requested a “permanent injunction” against media outlets, like the Red Pepper tabloid, from mounting homophobic campaigns and publishing identifying information of suspected gay Ugandans.

Ugandan Journalist and formal petitioner Andrew Mwenda calls upon the court to “pronounce itself urgently on the legality of this Act.” Unfortunately, it is unlikely they will reach a final decision in the next year or so.

The petition coincides with a bold statement by former Ugandan Vice President Speciosa Wandire-Kazibe, who now serves as the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. She declares, “I am in full solidarity with the LGBT community and I will continue to defend their rights in Uganda and across Africa.” Purporting that the law “undermines the significant progress of the national AIDS response” and fuels discrimination, Wandire-Kazibe vows to engage the government and civil society organizations on the issue.

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Speciosa Wandire-Kazibe