Uganda gays celebrate court victory

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Gays in Uganda celebrated today, after courts ruled in their favor in a case against a newspaper which called on people to hang them.

In October 2010, Rolling Stone newspaper had boldly called for gays to be hanged in one of their headlines. “Hang Them,” the headline read. The ensuing story showed photos of people presumed to be gays in Uganda, and even indicated locations of their homes.

And according to gays in Uganda, the newspaper article led to some of those whose photos, names and home adresses appeared in the newspaper to be attacked and beaten up by people who claimed to be anti-gay.

But after taking the case to court and applying for damages whilst requesting for an injunction against the newspaper, a Uganda court Monday ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The court has also issued a parmanent injunction against Rolling Stone newspaper never to publish photos of gays in Uganda, and also never to again publish their home addreses.

Justice Kibuuka Musoke’s ruling read in parts: “Gays are also entitled to their rights. This court has found that there was infringment of some people’s confidential rights. The court hereby issues an injuction restraining Rolling Stone newspaper from future publishing of identifcations of homosexuals.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) program coordinator Pepe Julian Onziema told the press after the ruling that they are happy because the court had ruled in their favor.

A man who identified himself as gay, Balae Ogole, said gay people “can now trust our courts because they have come up with a very appropriate judgment.”

Meanwhile, pro-gay groups are organizing parties in different parts of the country to celebrate the court decision, which they claim lays a solid foundation for human rights.

In October 2009, an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled in parliament by a member of parliament, David Bahati. The proposed law sought the death penalty against people convicted of aggravated homosexuality with minors and those who knowingly infect others with HIV.

The proposed legislation, which also urged parents and school authorities to disclose any child believed to be gay, was criticized by the international community, including US President Barack Obama, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Canada and Sweden, which threatened to cut financial assistance.

Although debate on the bill was expected to resume in February 2010 after the 2009 Christmas recess, a special committee organized by President Yoweri Museveni to review its implications advised that it should be withdrawn.

This came after the Chairman of the special committee, Adolf Mwesige, argued, in May, that the clauses in the new legislation were either unconstitutional or redundant. “Ninety-nine percent of all the proposals in the Bahati bill have been done before,” he said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, even under the existing laws.

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