The Constitutional Court hearing on Thursday (Pic: HRAPF)
Uganda’s Constitutional Court has begun hearing a petition to nullify the country’s oppressive Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The petitioners opposing the law include high profile LGBT and human rights campaigners and groups, an MP, and a university professor.
If their first argument about the legality of how the law was passed is accepted by the court, the act could be struck down as soon as tomorrow.
The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), which is one of those opposing the law, reported that proceedings kicked off on Wednesday with a request by the Attorney General for a postponement.
The Attorney General said there had not been enough time to prepare, given the sensitivity of the case, even though the petition was filed in March. The court’s five justices twice rejected her requests and unanimously ordered the hearing to continue.
The petitioners then presented their first argument against the law. They claimed that there were not enough MPs in Parliament when the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed to make up a quorum, as required by the Constitution and Parliament.
There were media reports at the time that there was not a quorum during the debate and vote on the law. It was also reported that the notoriously homophobic Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, rejected protests by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi that there were not enough lawmakers in attendance.
The petitioners presented evidence to the court regarding the lack of a quorum and that the matter was raised and then ignored by Kadaga. They also cited cases in which laws passed by Parliament without a quorum were previously declared unconstitutional by the courts.
The petitioners argued that the improper procedures used in the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act should lead the Constitutional Court to declare it null and void.
When court resumed on Thursday, the Attorney General responded that there was insufficient evidence that there was not a quorum when the law was passed, despite affidavits by two MPs and a parliamentary report stating that this was the case.
The case was adjourned to tomorrow, when the court will decide on the issue of the quorum. According to HRAPF, if the court rules that there was indeed no quorum, the act will be nullified and the case will come to a close.
If the ruling is in favour of the state, however, the hearings will proceed on other issues concerning the constitutionality of the contents of the act.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by Ugandan lawmakers in December last year and was signed into law by President Museveni in February, despite an international outcry.
The law extends the existing ban on gay sex and also punishes repeat “offenders” and attempts by same-sex couples to marry, all with life imprisonment.
In addition, anyone who “aids, abets [or] counsels” a gay person and anyone who rents a home or room to a gay person could also be sentenced to seven years in jail. The bill further includes criminal penalties of five to seven years in prison for anyone who “promotes” homosexuality.