The Constitutional Court of Uganda has commenced the hearing of the initial challenge to a severe anti-gay law that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and triggered United States visa restrictions on government officials.
Nicholas Opiyo, the lawyer representing the petitioners, informed the court in Kampala on Monday that they agreed to proceed with written submissions instead of oral submissions.
Uganda’s Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, heading the panel of five judges at the Constitutional Court, stated during the hearing, “Court shall give judgment on notice,” without setting a specific date for the ruling.
Uganda adopted one of the world’s strictest laws against homosexuality in May, prompting global outrage from rights advocates and Western nations. US President Joe Biden even threatened to cut aid and investment to Kampala.
President Yoweri Museveni’s government remained defiant, accusing the West of attempting to pressure Africa into accepting homosexuality.
The petitioners, including human rights activists, law professors from Makerere University in Kampala, and legislators from Museveni’s National Resistance Movement party, seek the overturning of the law.
While homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, the new legislation makes “aggravated homosexuality” a capital offense and imposes penalties of up to life imprisonment for consensual same-sex relations.
The law has garnered broad support in the country, with Ugandan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem accusing the West of attempting to coerce acceptance of same-sex relationships through aid and loans.
However, the legislation has faced strong condemnation from the international community, including the US, the European Union, and UN chief Antonio Guterres. Concerns have been raised about the potential impact on foreign aid and investment in Uganda unless the law is repealed.
The US, in response, imposed visa bans on unidentified officials deemed responsible for undermining the democratic process in Uganda and violating human rights, particularly those of the LGBTQ community. Plans to remove the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade pact have also been announced.
In August, the World Bank suspended new loans to Uganda, citing that the law fundamentally contradicts the values espoused by the US-based lender.