Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Monday October 3 heard a petition filed by local LGBTI activists challenging a law that bars homosexuals from employment and accessing equal opportunities. Activist Adrian Jjuko, who is also the Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), petitioned the court two years ago asking it to nullify section 15(6) d of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007.
The section states that the “Commission shall not investigate any matter involving behaviour which is considered to be immoral and socially harmful; or unacceptable by the majority of the cultural and social communities in Uganda.”
While homosexuals are not mentioned by name as one of the groups in the Act, during the debate to pass the law, the Parliamentary Hansard of December 12, 2006, records Ms Syda Bbumba, the former Finance Minister saying homosexuals should be targeted using the disputed clause. She was supported by other legislators.
Ms Bbumba was reported saying, “It is very important that we include that clause. This is because the homosexuals and the like have managed to forge their way through in other countries by identifying with minorities,”
It is this clause that gay rights activists are disputing in the case. They say that amongst other things, the Commission is tasked with ensuring that all Ugandans have access to equal opportunities, irrespective of tribe, religion, political opinion, race or any other such considerations.
The petition was heard by five judges of the Constitutional Court led by deputy chief justice Alice Mpagi Bahigeine. The other judges are Steven Kavuma, Arach Amoko, Remmy Kasule and Constance Byamugisha.
In the respondent’s submission, the Attorney General maintained that such a law was necessary and justified under Ugandan constitution. Ladislus Rwakafuzi, a Kampala gay friendly lawyer is representing Mr Jjuko.
Minorities are not defined in the Constitution of Uganda. However, vulnerable groups have been defined in the National Equal Opportunities Policy of 2006 as categories of people who lack security and susceptible to risk.
Mr Jjuko maintains that that such a law was not good for human rights in Uganda, and called on all activists to stand and defend the rights of minority groups in Uganda.
Rwakafuzi said his client wants the section of the law declared unconstitutional. A date for the ruling will be set by the court.
Uganda’s judiciary has in the past shown some level of independence when handling matters brought by groups advocating for homosexuals. One of the judges handling this petition also faulted government in another case in which local village officials and the police intruded the privacy of LGBTI activist, Victor Mukasa and searched his home allegedly to find evidence of homosexuality.