LGBTQ rights Uganda

Protect rights online and off: Uganda’s court upholds criminalization of LGBTQ+ advocacy

Access Now condemns the Uganda Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. This deadly blow to human rights is legitimizing discrimination, intolerance, and violence against people at risk in Uganda — online and off.

The Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold the Anti-Homosexuality Act opens up the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda to further discrimination and violence — people’s rights must be safeguarded on the internet and in the streets. The passing of the law has worsened the conditions of LGBTQ+ people, repressed the civic space, and opened up human rights defenders to targeted attacks — online and offline. This law violates human rights in their entirety. Jaimee Kokonya, Africa Campaigner at Access Now

On April 3, the court issued its judgment on petitions filed by human rights activists, journalists, and two members of parliament aiming to repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Act. While the court declined to nullify the law in its entirety, or to issue a permanent injunction against its enforcement, it did find that some provisions violated constitutional rights. Namely, Section 14, instituting the duty to report people suspected of “committing the act of homosexuality” to the police has been cut. This is a provision that bad faith actors have previously weaponized to target LGBTQ+ people on dating apps and report them to the police.

However, upholding the criminalization of consensual same-sex acts still puts people at risk of violence and persecution by authorities in Uganda. Since the law passed in May 2023, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum has documented over 200 violations against LGBTQ+ people. These violations range from doxxing to entrapment on dating apps and non-consensual distribution of intimate imagery, resulting in offline harms such as physical assault, arrests, and extortion.

In a small win, the Anti-Homosexuality Act will no longer force people in Uganda to report prohibited acts such as consensual online interactions — including using dating apps or engaging in online forums — to the police. This is a significant step in the right direction, but it is not enough to mitigate the threatening environment enabled by the law. Criminalizing advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the right to association will continue to stifle the civic space, and allow incitement to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community to persist unchecked. Bridget Andere, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now

The court’s decision to uphold this repressive law is a failure for human rights that is leaving people at risk, defenseless in the wake of severe repression. Authorities in Uganda must abide by their obligations to protect human rights for all.