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Ugandan Constitutional Court Upholds Draconian Anti-LGBTQI+ Law

Ugandan Constitutional Court Upholds Draconian Anti-LGBTQI+... Ugandan Constitutional Court Upholds Draconian Anti-LGBTQI+...

Today, Uganda’s top court rejected the request to nullify the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 (AHA23). Initially signed into law last May by President Museveni, AHA23 is one of the most extreme pieces of anti-LGBTQI+ legislation in the world, and includes the death penalty and life imprisonment.

The Constitutional Court only invalidated provisions related to the failure to report homosexual activities, permitted use of premises for engaging in homosexuality, and transmitting a “terminal illness” through same-sex intercourse, finding that these sections violate the right to health, privacy and freedom of religion. The majority of the AHA23 was unanimously upheld by the court. 

Rainbow Railroad is deeply concerned and stands with the Ugandan LGBTQI+ community in demanding meaningful protection of human rights and unequivocally opposing this Act.

Rise in Requests for Help Across the African Continent

Since the law’s passage, Rainbow Railroad has fielded a consistent increase in requests for help from queer and trans Ugandans.

In 2023, we received over 1,390 requests for help from Uganda — more than any year in our organization’s history. An alarming 81% of these requests were received following the law’s adoption.

In 2024, Uganda continues to be one of the top countries where requests for help originate. Requests received last year and this year include reports of persecution such as loss of employment, torture, suicide, violent arrests and evictions of LGBTQI+ people.

In January and February of 2024, we experienced a 49% increase in requests for assistance compared to the same period in 2023.

Understanding the Regional Ramifications

AHA23 is the latest in a disturbing surge of colonial-era anti-LGBTQI+ legislation in Africa, fueled by well-funded and organized evangelical groups. Similar legislation in other countries has led to severe consequences for LGBTQI+ individuals. In February, Ghana passed an anti-LGBTQI+ bill that further threatens and criminalizes queer and trans individuals.

Currently, same-sex intimacy is illegal in 31 African countries and punishable by death in three, including Uganda. In 2023, we saw a 108% increase in requests for help from African individuals, compared to 2022. In the first two months of 2024, requests for help from African individuals increased by 47%, compared to the same period in 2023.

Right now, Rainbow Railroad is working to get at-risk LGBTQI+ Ugandans to safety through emergency travel support, supporting local partner organizations, and providing vital services, including shelter, access to medical care, bail funding and legal aid services.

LGBTQI+ advocate and Executive Director of local partner Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha, condemns the Constitutional Court’s decision:

“We continue to call for this law to be repealed and we are calling on all governments, UN partners, and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to likewise intensify their demand that this law be struck down. This ruling should result in further restrictions to funding for Uganda — no donor should be funding anti-LGBTQ+ hate and human rights violations.”

Rainbow Railroad calls on governments worldwide to develop immediate crisis responses inclusive of pathways to safety for members of the LGBTQI+ community and human rights defenders impacted by this legislation. We also call on our community to support our efforts by amplifying our messaging, and contacting their elected officials to speak out against this dehumanizing piece of legislation.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

Recent Updates on our Work in Uganda

Watch: Uganda: The Anti-Homosexuality Act

Rainbow Railroad’s Support of Mbarara Rise Foundation 

Report: Rainbow Railroad Update on the Situation in Uganda