The Ugandan constitutional court struck down today a law passed earlier this year which criminalises homosexuality.
The court overturned the law, which had drawn widespread international condemnation, after it deemed it unconstitutional since it was passed without the necessary quorum of lawmakers.
“The speaker violated the parliamentary rules of procedure by allowing the bill to pass without quorum,” the presiding judge said as the ruling was announced.
The law, described as severe by many gay rights activists, carried with it a sentence of up to life in prison for certain homosexual acts.
“This is a great day for human rights… and sends a signal to governments around the world that the time of flagrant anti-discriminatory legislation is over,” said the head of policy at the International HIV/Aids Alliance, Anton Ofield-Kerr.
“Today lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender Ugandans, along with all human rights defenders in Uganda, have scored a decisive victory against the politics of scapegoating and the politics of hate,” said Asia Russell, director of international policy at Health GAP.
The initial passing of the law carried with it widespread anti-gay sentiments in Uganda, with one newspaper publishing a list of what it called the country’s “top 200 homos”.
Following the law’s passing, Uganda faced a cut in US aid and the cancelation of a regional military exercise, which the US said was a measure meant to “reinforce our support for human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Pro-gay activists remain concerned, however, that the law was overturned due to a breach in parliamentary procedure, and not for a concern over human rights, meaning that it could well be re-applied in Uganda.