Court sets hearing date for petition against anti-gay law

Bubulo East MP John Musila displays his anti-gay attire during plenary at Parliament on March 21. The Uganda government is worried that its US counterpart could stop HIV/Aids support over the anti-gay law. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

  • Sitting as a single judge of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire agreed with the Attorney General’s submission to have all the petitions consolidated.

The Constitutional Court has set December 11, 2023, as the date to start hearing four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-homosexuality Law 2023.

This was after the petitioners agreed to consolidate all four petitions and 19 applications that were filed by different individuals and groups including West Budama MP Fox Odoi, Uganda's Ambassador to South Africa Kintu Nyango, Veteran Journalist Andrew Mwenda, Makerere University Law professors; Sylvia Tamale, Busingye Kabumba and several civil society organisations.

Sitting as a single judge of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire agreed with the Attorney General’s submission to have all the petitions consolidated.

“If we are to handle them one by one, we shall finish in 2026. We need to bring the petition for trial as quickly as possible. I want to see cooperation. You are all targeting the same law and I do not see why there are four petitions,” Justice Kiryabwire held.

Mr Odoi, a former legal counsel to President Museveni told court that they will go with the court’s guidance and have the matter consolidated.

“Basing on the court's direction and on the consent of parties, all petitions should be consolidated and parties should file the consent by today (Tuesday). The parties have also committed themselves not to make any amendments in the four petitions during the hearing,” he observed.

However, the court held that before the hearing of the main petition, it will have to first deal with an application by Pastor Martin Ssempa who wants to join the Attorney General to defend the Anti-homosexuality law.

Among some of the grounds for the petition, the complainants contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision which nullified a similar law and is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution.

The petitioners contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45-day period provided for by the rules of Parliament.

They further allege that Parliament enacted the controversial law on May 2 without meaningful and adequate public participation which is inconsistent and in contravention of Articles 1, 2, 8A, 20, 36, 38, 79 and Objective 11(1) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution.

However, in defence the Attorney General argues 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 and declarations.”

The government lawyers contend that the legislation does not alter the 2014 decision by the Constitutional Court, saying: “The decision/judgment was based on the lack of quorum and did not go to the substance of the legislation.”

They added that the Act was passed by Parliament after conducting wide consultations with the public and their representatives in the form of written and oral memoranda.

About the law

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.