The Constitutional Court has constituted a panel of five justices who will hear four consolidated petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality Law.
The panel which has been constituted comprises Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Monica Mugenyi Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, and Christopher Gashirabake.
The Panel will on Wednesday kick off with a hearing of the applications arising from the consolidated petitions before it can embark on hearing the main case on December 18th 2023.
Among the applications to be heard is that in which Makerere Community Church’s Born Again Pastor Martin Ssempa and Engineer Stephen Langa want to be joined as parties in the case.
In his application, Pastor Ssempa through his lawyer, Gawaya Tegule wants to join the Attorney General to defend the Anti-homosexuality Law while Langa wants to be joined as a necessary party.
Ssempa’s request to join as a respondent is intended to support upholding the law citing the preservation of traditional, moral, and cultural values that endorse heterosexuality as his motivation. Ssempa emphasized the significance of the matter, characterizing it as a contentious topic that triggers impassioned debates on religion, morality, African traditions, societal norms, and essential imperatives.
He highlighted the previous challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in 2014, expressing dismay at its annulment, which he and many Ugandans perceived as a looming threat with potentially irreversible negative consequences on society if unchecked. On that basis, he wants to join the Attorney General to put up a strong defense aimed at upholding the Anti-Homosexuality Law.
The petitions which were consolidated about two weeks ago were filed by; West Budama MP Fox Odoi and seven others, Makerere University Professor Sylvia Tamale Dr Busingye Kabumba and seven others Lawyer Robert Rutaro and three others, and Bishop James Lubega Banda.
The petitioners through their respective lawyers seek among others to strike out from the Constitution a law that criminalizes what they call “consensual sex among adults. They further petitioned the court seeking annulment of the Anti-homosexuality Law on grounds that it infringes on several articles of the Constitution that relate to personal freedoms and dignity as well as hampering the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The parties have also framed issues that they want the court to determine and through their respective lawyers have filed the same on the court record on Monday as ordered by Justice Kiryabwire who sat as a Single Judge during the pretrial session.
The lawyers Henry Byansi, Owori Onyango, Benon Makumbi, and David Henry Mukiibi have pended their signatures on behalf of the petitioners, and the Director for Civil Litigation in the Attorney General’s chambers Martin Mwambutsya has signed on behalf of the government (Attorney General).
Some of the issues for determination the parties have listed are whether the Anti-Homosexuality Act alters the decision and or judgments of the court in contravention of Article 92 of the Constitution and whether the Private Members Bill that introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 imposes a charge on the consolidated fund or any other public fund in contravention of Article 93(a) (ii) of the Constitution;
Whether the Anti Homosexuality Act 2023 was enacted without meaningful and adequate public participation in contravention of National Objectives and Directives of State Policy and the constitution, whether the conduct of the Speaker of Parliament during the process of enacting the Anti Homosexuality Act 2023 was inconsistent with the constitution among other issues.
Among other grounds for the petition is that the complainants contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision that nullified a similar law and is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution.
The petitioners also note that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, of 2023 was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45 days provided for by the rules of Parliament.
They say that the public was also not adequately consulted before the law was passed.
The Attorney General through an affidavit from Bugiri Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa, who moved the bill, wants the Anti-Homosexuality Law maintained on grounds that it does not discriminate against individuals but instead criminalizes sexual acts between persons of the same sex.
In 2014 the Constitutional Court struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds after finding that the Parliament had passed it without the required quorum.