A Ugandan court overturned the severe anti-gay law that, among other things, mandated a lifetime sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Friday’s ruling marks a victory for gay rights activists, who have been battling the country’s homophobic laws for years. "The retrogressive anti-homosexuality act of Uganda has been struck down by the constitutional court — it’s now dead as a doornail," said Andrew Mwenda, who was part of the group petitioning against the law.
But the decision doesn’t mark a shift in the Ugandan government’s attitude towards homosexuality. According to the court, the bill — which was proposed in December of 2013 and signed into law in February — is “null and void” only because Parliament didn’t have a quorum sufficient to pass a law at the time of the vote.
This is not the first time that gay rights activists have celebrated a bittersweet victory. In January, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni temporarily blocked the bill, but only because he views homosexuality as a sickness. In a letter to the members of parliament, he wrote that gay people are “abnormal,” and could be “rescued.” He argued that the bill would be useless: “Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing [sic] homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons.”
The repealed law, which also mandated jail time for the vague acts of “attempted homosexuality” and “promotion of homosexuality,” was watered down from an even harsher version. That one, introduced in 2009, would have doled out the death penalty for “repeat offenders.” In every iteration, the law has dealt with the question of punishment rather than legal status. Homosexual acts have been illegal in Uganda since it was a British colony, and remain so today.
It’s not yet clear whether the Ugandan government will appeal the decision.
By: Danielle Wiener-Bronner