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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 8 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 32
Uganda's Constitutional Court overturns Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds - HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST comments: Uganda's Court Ruling: What's Next?
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Uganda's Constitutional Court overturns Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds - HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST comments: Uganda's Court Ruling: What's Next?

A short Q&A with Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord addressing next steps in Uganda following last Friday's ruling invalidating the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

What happened?
Shawn: Members of civil society, legal scholars, and representatives of the Ugandan LGBT community argued before the Constitutional Court that the Anti-Homosexuality Act should be overturned, raising both procedural and substantive objections. According to the Ugandan constitution, for a valid vote to occur in parliament there must be quorum, which means at least one-third of parliamentary members must be in attendance. By holding a vote without quorum, the Speaker of Parliament violated legislative procedure and therefore the vote was invalid. Over recent days, a panel of five judges heard arguments on this fact, ultimately adhering to the letter of the law, overturning the bill based on procedural impropriety.

How does the ruling affect the legal status of the Ugandan LGBT community?
Shawn: LGBT persons and allies in Uganda can no longer be arrested, tried, and convicted under the Anti-Homosexuality Act. As law, the bill prescribed life imprisonment for so-called 'aggravated homosexuality,' a term which included repeated consensual sexual acts between members of the same sex. Additionally, those who aided in performing same-sex marriages faced up to seven years in prison under the law.

However, other discriminatory laws remain in place, namely the country's anti-sodomy laws under which Gay men can still face prosecution for up to seven years for consensual relations.

What's next?
Shawn: The Constitutional Court decided the case on a narrow set of procedural definitions, a clear-cut case of the Speaker of Parliament not fulfilling his legislative obligations. Proponents of the bill have the opportunity to appeal the decision.

Legislatively, the bill could be re-introduced. The bill maintained widespread public support from the moment it was introduced until this morning's verdict. Additionally, as the Constitutional Court ruled on a matter of procedure, as opposed to invalidating the bill on its merits, there is no legal basis to deny such a reintroduction. If a member of parliament does so, the process will have to start from the beginning, meaning that there will be considerable time before a new version of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could become law.

What does this move mean about the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions?
Shawn: While the court did not cite the sanctions as in any way related to the decision they made, we know that the very public sanctioning of Uganda was well-known throughout the country and particularly within the government and may have contributed to the court's taking the position it took.

Should the sanctions now be lifted?
Shawn: The United States should immediately review the sanctions it levied against Uganda in light of this decision and quickly announce which sanctions can be lifted. In some cases, as in the steering of funds away from organizations that actively promote LGBT discrimination, the sanctions could be more accurately termed policy changes that fixed long-standing problems in the ways the United States and Uganda interacted economically; moving forward, these new conditions should remain the norm. Some punitive measures, such as the moving of particular international conferences out of Uganda, will not be able to be undone. However, lifting certain sanctions, such as the visa bans, can send an important message and validate a key element of the concept of sanctions - that they will be reversed when the conditions that led to them are addressed.

Courtesy of Human Rights First

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Uganda's Constitutional Court overturns Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds - HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST comments: Uganda's Court Ruling: What's Next?
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