Opinion of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association on the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009

This opinion of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association on the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 demonstrates how the Bill contravenes international human rights law and relevant case law.

This is the response of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association to a private members bill introduced in the Ugandan Parliament in 2009. In October 2009 the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 (AHB) was presented to the Parliament of Uganda. If enacted the AHB would establish a sentence of life imprisonment for any individuals convicted of ‘homosexuality’, itself defined to include consensual penetrative sex in private between persons of the same gender or any touching of another person with the intention of such an act (Section 2). The AHB also creates an offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, defined to include repeated acts of homosexuality, punishable by a mandatory death penalty (Section 3). The final substantive provision of the AHB (Section 18) purports to nullify any international or regional commitments that are deemed ‘contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined’ in the AHB.

In this opinion, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association considers the compatibility of the Bill with international human rights law. As part of this analysis the broader issue of any form of criminalisation of consensual private homosexual acts also falls for scrutiny. In this respect the opinion is of potential relevance in a large number of Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The opinion first addresses the question of criminalisation of private same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. It then goes on to analyse the individual sections of the AHB demonstrating how these provisions contravene international law. The opinion concludes by identifying the provisions of the Ugandan Constitution which, in the light of the available comparative law, conflict with the AHB.

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