Today, the Constitutional Court of Uganda issued its decision on Consolidated Petitions No. 14, 15, 16, and 85 of 2023, announcing that the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 generally complies with the Constitution of Uganda, except for four specified areas.

The ruling, delivered by a panel of five justices led by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, identified Sections 3(2)(c), 9, 11(2)(d), and 14 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act as violating the constitutional rights of Ugandan citizens.

Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, summarised an extensive 200-page judgment and announced that the court unanimously reached a decision.

According to the justices, the nullified sections criminalized various aspects related to homosexuality, including the leasing of premises for homosexual activities, the failure to report homosexual acts to authorities, and engaging in acts of homosexuality leading to the contraction of terminal illnesses by others.

Section 3(2)(c) made it a crime to engage in homosexual acts that result in the contraction of a terminal illness by another person. It states, “the person to whom the offense is committed contracts a terminal illness as a result of the sexual act.”

Section 9 mandated anyone who knows about homosexual acts to report them to the police. It states that “a person who knowingly allows any premises to be used by any person for purposes of homosexuality or to commit an offense under the act is liable to jail time for a period not exceeding seven years.”

Section 11(2)(d) made it illegal to rent premises for use for homosexual activities. It states that “knowingly leases or subleases, uses, or allows someone to use any house, building, or establishment for purposes of undertaking activities that encourage homosexuality or any other offense under this act is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years.”

Section 14 pertains to the penalties for engaging in homosexual acts and for a person not reporting acts of homosexuality to police despite having reasonable suspicion. It carries a fine or jail time of five years, or both.

These sections were deemed incompatible with the Constitution of Uganda and were therefore struck down by the court.

The Act faced legal challenges, with private citizens and human rights activists arguing that it violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Ugandan Constitution and international human rights conventions.

Four consolidated petitions were filed against the Attorney General and Pastor Martin Ssempa regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Act. These petitions involved various groups, including civil society organizations, politicians like West Budama MP Fox Odoi, academic figures such as Makerere University Professor Sylvia Tamale and Dr. Busingye Kabumba, as well as Bishop James Lubega Banda.

These petitions argued that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violates constitutional principles and neglects national objectives and state policy directives. Key issues for determination include whether the Act contradicts previous court decisions, breaches parliamentary procedures, and diminishes public participation in the legislative process.

Critics claim that the Act was hurried through Parliament, being passed in a mere six days instead of the required 45, and lacked substantial public consultation. They argue that its enactment goes against a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling that invalidated a similar law and breaches international standards on human rights and nondiscrimination.

In response, the Attorney General, backed by Pastor Ssempa, seeks the dismissal of the petitions, arguing that they are incompetent and lack merit. They allege that the motives of the petitioners are driven by ill will and aim to undermine Uganda’s constitutional order by advocating for the protection of unconstitutional acts.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by the Parliament in 2023 amidst public outcry and media discussions, driven by concerns over the alleged recruitment of children into homosexual acts and the psychological trauma experienced by affected families.

Despite international pressure, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in May 2023, remains firm in his support for the legislation.