Ugandans challenge anti-gay law in court

2014-03-11 22:27
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (File, AFP)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (File, AFP)

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Kampala - Ugandan gay rights activists and politicians filed a challenge in court on Tuesday to a tough new anti-gay law that has sparked international outrage and drawn foreign aid cuts.

"I believe it [the law] to be harmful, redundant, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the constitution," said Fox Odoi, an MP and one of the nine petitioners who submitted their appeal at Uganda's constitutional court.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last month signed a bill which holds that "repeat homosexuals" should be jailed for life, outlaws any promotion of homosexuality and requires people to report on homosexuals.

The passing of the bill was largely a popular move in conservative Uganda, where Museveni - a devout Christian who has been in power for 28 years - looks set to be re-elected in 2016.

But the petitioners argue the law violates the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

"This act not only represents an effort by the executive and parliament to scapegoat an unpopular minority for political gain, but we believe it also violates the highest law of our country," said Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and one of the petitioners.

The activists are led by Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law - which includes 50 Ugandan groups.

The group said in a statement there had been several cases of "violence and retaliation" against people known or suspected to be gay since the law was signed.

The coalition said they had documented 10 cases of arrests of people who are gay or suspected to be gay since the law was passed, and at least three cases of landlords evicting tenants.

The petition also requested a permanent injunction against media outlets that identify gay or suspected gay people, after newspapers listed people accused of being homosexual.

"It is motivated purely by hate and by a drive to reap commercial gain," said Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, another petitioner, who was herself named in the Red Pepper tabloid.

In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a different newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a banner headline reading "Hang Them".

Read more on:    yoweri museveni  |  uganda  |  gay rights  |  east africa
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