Gay rights activists celebrated victory in the most unlikely of settings in late 2008, when a Kampala court ruled that the suppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT ) organizations was unconstitutional. Uganda has long been one of Africa’s worst oppressors of gays and lesbians; it criminalizes homosexuality and has made repeated attempts to silence sexual rights defenders. Authorities frequently harass activists in their homes and in public, newspapers have published lists of gay men and women in order to incite violence against them, and in 2005 the Parliament amended the Constitution in order to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex.
Yet, as Afrol News reports, Ugandan Justice Stella Arach ruled in favour of LGBT activists Victor Mukasa and Oyo Yvonne, citing constitutional violations of the right to privacy, to property and the fundamental rights of women. As reported by Currents in our January/February 2008 issue, Victor Mukasa’s home was illegally raided by police in July 2005; all documents with a homosexual content were confiscated, and Yvonne was arbitrarily detained and subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment, including forcing her to undress ‘to prove that she was a woman’.
Ugandan LGBT activists have hailed the court decision: ‘The most important role that police can play is to protect people,’ Victor Mukasa explains. ‘This judgment is a serious reminder to the Ugandan police that all Ugandans, including [sexual minorities], should be handled with respect and dignity.’