United Nations officials have welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court of Uganda to annul the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, hailing it as a victory for the rule of law and social justice.
The law, which drew condemnation from the UN when it was promulgated in February, called for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction, and imprisonment for life for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. Challenged by 10 petitioners, including civil society, parliamentarians and academics, the law was annulled by the Court over a lack of quorum when the bill was passed.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to all those who contributed to this “step forward,” particularly the human rights defenders in Uganda who spoke out, at times incurring great personal risk.
“The Secretary-General calls for further efforts to decriminalize same-sex relationships and address the stigma and discrimination that persist in Uganda against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.
Also welcoming the decision to annul the law was the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which had warned that the legislation may obstruct effective responses to the virus.
“This is a great day for social justice,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé declared in a statement. “The rule of law has prevailed.”
UNAIDS noted that while homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, annulling the law could have positive public health implications. Studies show that when gay men and other men who have sex with men face discrimination, including abuse, incarceration and prosecution, they are less likely to seek HIV testing, prevention and treatment services.
“[Ugandan] President Yoweri Museveni had personally indicated to me that he wants Uganda to accelerate its AIDS response to ensure all people have access to life-saving services,” said Mr. Sidibé.
UNAIDS urged all Governments around the world, to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect people from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring access to health services, including HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.