Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The nation’s top constitutional court invalidated the Uganda’s highly controversial anti-homosexuality law, citing improper parliamentary procedures. The opinion cites that the Speaker of the House acted illegally when she allowed the original bill to be voted for passage by MPs despite the lack of a quorum in the chamber. Afterward, President Museveni signed the legislation into law.
Activists held the decision as a significant victory in for civil rights in Uganda, but will this be only a temporary legal reprieve?
Under the legislation, individuals can be imprisoned for engaging in homosexual acts or “promoting homosexuality.” Additionally, failure to report acts of homosexuality by witnesses can also lead to prosecution and imprisonment.
Yet a worse situation arises in that the law provides for life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” This category of offenses is defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving minors, a disabled person, or where one partner is infected with HIV.
Amnesty International stated the law was a first step in reversing the government persecution of citizens of Uganda. The group cited having proof of numerous examples of arbitrary arrest, extortion and police abuse of lesbian, gay, and transgendered individuals.
“Even though Uganda’s abominable Anti-Homosexuality Act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for the Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law.”
Deutsche Welle reports David Bahati, the Ugandan parliamentary deputy who introduced the bill, which initially proposed the death penalty for homosexuality, said the government would appeal the ruling. He said he was confident the law would remain in force.
Critics have said Museveni signed the bill into law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016.
Externally, a multitude of sanctions imposed by Western Nations possibly influenced the decision by the court and in the background the government. US Secretary of State John Kerry likened the law to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
It remains to be seen how committed Uganda is toward equality in its society.
By Darren Smith
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