Uganda court upholds extreme anti-LGBTQ+ law despite human rights concerns

Although declining to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the court did find that certain sections of the legislation violate human rights.

A judge in Uganda delivering a court ruling on the country's anti-LGBTQ+ law. The image shows the judge sitting alongside colleagues at the top of a courtroom. He talks into a microphone.
Image: @nickopiyo via X

Uganda’s Constitutional Court has upheld the nation’s extreme anti-LGBTQ+ law, which includes capital punishment for “aggravated homosexuality”.  Deputy Chief Justice and Head of Court, Justice Richard Buteera, handed down the decision on Wednesday, April 3, closing the case brought by two law professors from Makerere University in Kampala.

The petitioners, one of whom is Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist, argued that the legislation violates citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, as guaranteed by the country’s constitution. They further stressed that it contravenes Uganda’s commitments under international human rights law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Despite this, Justice Buteera delivered the ruling on behalf of the court, stating: “We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement.”

However, the summary judgment did find that certain sections of the legislation are “inconsistent with right to health, privacy and freedom of religion,” particularly referencing the mandatory reporting to authorities of people suspected of having committed so-called homosexual offences.

Responding to the news of Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ+ law being upheld, human rights attorney Nicholas Opiyo said: “You come to court expecting it to rise above public bigotry and sentiments. To that extent, it is a letdown, but we will see what next steps can be taken.”

The lawyer additionally expressed that it was “strange, to say the least,” for the court to base its “decision on public sentiment, purported cultural values, and unfounded/unsubstantiated allegations of recruitment into homosexuality”.


Activist Steven Kabuye, who was attacked and stabbed in January, said the ruling means queer people have “been pushed further in the darkness,” adding that “the price of freedom to an ordinary LGBTQI+ Ugandan is death.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 was signed into law in May last year by President Yoweri Museveni. While same-sex relationships were already criminalised in the country due to colonial-era legislation, the new measures saw some of the harshest punishments in the world introduced for offenders.

Under the law, engaging in LGBTQ+ sexual relationships can result in life in prison, and those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”, which includes having sex while HIV Positive, face the death penalty. Additionally, campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.

Countries around the world have pushed back against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, with Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin previously stating: “Ireland condemns new laws in Uganda that threaten LGBTI+ people with punishments, including the death penalty.

“This is contrary to Uganda’s international obligations. Ireland will continue to defend human rights, including LGBTI+ rights, as a priority on the international stage.”


Elsewhere, the World Bank, the international financial institution that lends money to the governments of low or middle-income countries, halted new lending to Uganda due to the legislation.

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