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Mixed reactions in Uganda after constitutional court rejects bid to nullify anti-homosexuality laws

People in Uganda reacted with mixed views after the country’s Constitutional Court upheld Wednesday an anti-gay law that allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.

The law in question defines “aggravated homosexuality” as cases of homosexual relations involving a minor and other categories of vulnerable people, or when the perpetrator is infected with HIV.

The court in the Ugandan capital Kampala rejected the petitioners’ request to quash the law despite widespread condemnation from rights groups and others abroad.

President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law in May last year.

The law is supported by many in the East African country, where some see it as behaviour imported from abroad and not a sexual orientation.

Constitutional Court judges said the law was legally passed by parliament and does not violate the constitution.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.”

The punishment for that offense is life imprisonment.

A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years.

The court, however, ruled that members of the gay community should not be discriminated against when seeking medication.

Uganda was one of the earliest and hardest hit countries when AIDS emerged, and public health experts have long warned against letting stigma or fear of punishment impede access to care.

In Kampala, many Ugandans expressed mixed feelings over the ruling.

But members of the LGBTQI community were quick to cast a dark shadow on the court’s decision, saying it will worsen their already desperate situation.

Some lawyers for the petitioners said after the judgment that they will now turn to the Supreme Court, hoping it will overturn the law.

Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.


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