Uganda sets anti-gay law petition hearing date

Ugandan LGBTQ activist Papa De raises a fist outside the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa during a protest against the country’s anti-homosexuality bill on April 4, 2023. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The court set the date after the petitioners agreed to consolidate all four petitions and 19 applications that were filed by different individuals and groups.

Uganda's Constitutional Court has set December 11 to hear four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality Law that was enacted in May 2023.

The court set the date after the petitioners agreed to consolidate all four petitions and 19 applications that were filed by different individuals and groups.

The petitioners include West Budama Northeast MP Fox Odoi, Uganda’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa Kintu Nyango, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, Makerere University Law professors Sylvia Tamale and Busingye Kabumba, and several civil society organisations.

Sitting as a single judge of the Constitutional Court on November 28, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire agreed with the attorney general’s submission to have all the petitions consolidated.

“If we are to handle one by one, we shall finish in 2026. We need to bring the petition for trial as quickly as possible. I want to see cooperation. You are all targeting the same law and I do not see why there are four petitions. I find it necessary to see the parties and see if they are interested in the matter,” Justice Kiryabwire held.

Odoi, a former legal counsel to President Yoweri Museveni, told the court that they will go with its guidance together with other petitioners to have the matter consolidated.

“Basing on the court’s direction and on the consent of parties, all petitions should be consolidated, and parties should file the consent by Tuesday. The parties have also committed themselves not to make any amendments in the four petitions during trial or hearing,” Justice Kiryabwire observed.

However, the court held that before the hearing of the main petition, it will have to first deal with an application by Pastor Martin Ssempa who wants to join the attorney general to defend the Anti-Homosexuality Law. 

Among some of the grounds for the petition, complainants contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision that nullified a similar law, and it is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the constitution.

The petitioners claimed the Act was passed within six days instead of the 45-day period provided for by the rules of parliament.

They further allege that parliament enacted the controversial law on May 2 without meaningful and adequate public participation.

However, the attorney general who represents the government in defence said, "The provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 are not inconsistent with or in contravention with the provisions of the Constitution, international treaties, covenants and declarations.”

Government lawyers also contend that the legislation does not alter the 2014 decision by Constitutional Court, saying: “The decision/judgment was based on the lack of quorum and did not go to the substance of the legislation.”

They added that the Act was passed by parliament after conducting wide consultations with the public and their representatives in form of written and oral memoranda.