A Ugandan gay man and a trans woman are finally free after a Kampala court dismissed the charges against them due to lack of evidence.
Kim Mukisa, 24, and Jackson Mukasa, 19, were arrested in January after Mukisa was thrown out of his house and beaten by a mob, which included local council authorities, over claims that he is gay.
According to the local Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), police arrested Mukasa first and used her to call Mukisa to the police station where he was also arrested.
The two were subjected to HIV examinations without their consent, and one of them had an anal examination performed on him. Both were paraded before the media as homosexuals.
Mukisa was charged with “having carnal knowledge of a person against the order of nature” and Mukasa with “permitting a male person to have carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” They could have faced life in prison if convicted.
They spent seven days in police custody without being charged and were only brought before a court when their lawyers from HRAPF wrote to the Inspector General of Police and the Uganda Human Rights Commission complaining about their illegal detention.
They were eventually granted bail after spending four months in detention. The case was adjourned four times because the prosecution failed to produce any witnesses.
Requests to dismiss the case by the accused’s lawyers were denied in order to give the prosecution more time. But on Wednesday, Magistrate Lilian Bucyana had enough and rejected the state’s request for yet another adjournment and dismissed the case after the prosecution was again unable to present any witnesses.
HRAPF noted that while Mukisa and Mukasa were now free, the dismissal of the charges does not bar future prosecution as the charges could be reinstated by prosecution.
“Of course their lives have been shattered by the charges and this indeed is the greatest effect of laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations in a country that is largely homophobic,” said the organisation.
“The dismissal of the charges is very exciting news but it also underlines the danger of having such laws on the law books,” it added.
In August, Uganda’s Constitutional Court annulled the reviled Anti-Homosexuality Act, but gay sex remains illegal under previous colonial-era legislation, with penalties including life imprisonment.