Uganda strikes out controversial anti-gay law

AP Photo/Katy Pownall

Uganda's controversial anti-gay law which criminalised hundreds of people and led to a sharp rise in persecution of homosexuals has been struck out as "null and void".

Although the African nation's penal code continues to criminalise "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature", Uganda's Constitutional Court today (Friday) ruled that the Act was "null and void" because not enough representatives were in the room for the vote when it was passed by parliament in December 2013.

Since Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act came into force in March 2014, human rights organisations such as Amnesty documented a sharp increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

Many lost their jobs, were left homeless or were effectively forced to flee the country.

Rev Sally Hitchiner, founder of Diverse Church, the UK's biggest movement for young LGBT people, hailed the change as "massive". She said: "We welcome anything that enables individuals to be themselves."

Amnesty said it was a step towards stopping state-sponsored discrimination in its tracks.

Sarah Jackson, deputy regional director, said: "Even though Uganda's abominable Anti-Homosexuality Act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law.

"Since it was first being floated in 2009, these activists have often put their safety on the line to ensure that Ugandan law upholds human rights principles.

"We now hope that this step forward translates into real improvements in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Uganda, who have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice for too long."

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