Anti-gay law petition hearing deferred

Lawyers Nicholas Opiyo (L) and Derrick Tukwasiibwe (C) interact with MP and petitioner against the anti-gay law, Fox-Odoi Oywelowo, at the Constitutional Court in Kampala on October 2, 2023. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The anti-gay law prescribes tough penalties for various offences, including participating in, promotion, facilitation and failure to report same sex acts.

The Constitutional Court has adjourned hearing into a petition against the enactment of Uganda’s anti-gay law.

The petitioners and the Attorney General, the sole respondent in the case, appeared before court registrar Susanne Anyala Okeny for the pre-conferencing hearing on Monday.

But court heard that the Attorney General was not ready to proceed, leading to the adjournment with orders that the parties involved file joint conferencing notes on October 12 before the petition is forwarded to the trial justices.

The court challenge against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 was filed by lawmakers Fox Odoi-Oywelowo and Paul Bucyana Kiwizera, alongside activists Frank Mugisha, Pepe Onziema, Jackline Kemigisa, Linda Mutesi, Kintu Nyago, Jane Nasiimbwa and veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda.

According to them, the Act alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision which nullified a similar law, and is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Ugandan law.

They further argue that the Act was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45-day window provided by Parliamentary rules.

“The expediency and speed with which the Anti Homosexuality Act was passed denied the people of Uganda exercise of their power and sovereignty in contravention of articles 1(1), (2) and (3) of the constitution,” the petition reads in part.

Prior to enactment of the anti-gay law, Odoi, a former legal counsel to President Museveni vocally opposed its adoption and presented a minority report before Parliament.

The Attorney General previously argued that: “The provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 are not inconsistent with or in contravention with the provisions of the Constitution, international treaties, covenants, conventions and declarations.”

The AG insisted that the legislation does not alter the 2014 Constitutional Court verdict which struck down the law, citing “lack of quorum and not going to the substance of the legislation.”

“The 2023 Act was passed by Parliament after conducting wide consultations with the public and their representatives in the form of written and oral memoranda,” the office of the Attorney General maintains.  

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

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