Ugandan court invalidates anti-gay law

2014-08-02 09:46

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Kampala, Uganda – A Ugandan court has invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, pleasing activists and watchdog groups who called the measure draconian and wanted it repealed.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court yesterday declared the law illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum.

Activists erupted in cheers after the court ruled the law “null and void”, but some cautioned that the fight was not over.

The state could appeal the ruling in the supreme court and legislators might try to reintroduce new anti-gay measures.

Also, a colonial-era law that criminalises sex acts “against the order of nature” still remains in effect in Uganda, allowing for continued arrests.

The invalidated law provided for jail terms of up to life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. It also allowed lengthy jail terms for those convicted of the offences of “attempted homosexuality”, as well as “promotion of homosexuality.”

Although the legislation has wide support in Uganda, it has been condemned in the West.

The US has withheld or redirected funding to some Ugandan institutions accused of involvement in rights abuses, but the ruling yesterday might win the Ugandan delegation a softer landing in the US next week as it heads to Washington for a gathering led by President Barack Obama.

The panel of five judges on the East African country’s Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections – including from the country’s prime minister – over a lack of a quorum when the bill was passed on December 20.

“The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum,” the court said in its ruling. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.”

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