Uganda high court rules anti-gay newspaper article violated constitutional rights

[JURIST] The Uganda High Court [official website] on Monday issued a permanent injunction [press release, PDF] and awarded damages to plaintiffs who were alleged to be homosexuals by the Ugandan tabloid newspaper, The Rolling Stone. The complaint was filed by Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law [advocacy website] on behalf of three members who, along with 97 other individuals, were alleged to be homosexuals in an article published by the tabloid [Guardian report] under the headline "Hang Them" in October 2010. In addition to listing the individuals' names, the tabloid also published many of their photographs, addresses and preferred social hang-outs, which the high court ruled constituted an infringement of their fundamental rights to privacy and dignity. The decision is being celebrated by human rights groups as "landmark in the struggle for the protection of human dignity and the right to privacy irrespective of one's sexual orientation."

Uganda has been harshly criticized throughout the international community since the introduction [BBC report] in October 2009 of its Anti-Homosexuality Bill [text, PDF], which has since been stalled in the Parliament. In January of last year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said the bill was discriminatory [JURIST report] and could harm Uganda's reputation internationally. Additionally, in February, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] denounced the proposed legislation [JURIST report], which would implement harsh punishments for homosexual behavior, including the death penalty in some circumstances. The bill also imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for individuals, including family members, who fail to report the identity of a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered within 24 hours. Uganda currently criminalizes homosexual behavior [BBC report] with up to 14 years in prison.

 

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