Uganda Cites U.S. Dobbs Decision in Ruling to Uphold Death Penalty for ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’

In other words, Uganda looked to the cruel, conservative logic of the U.S. legal system to justify its own law to kill queer people.

Politics
Uganda Cites U.S. Dobbs Decision in Ruling to Uphold Death Penalty for ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’

On Wednesday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling that upheld most of the provisions of a law that imposes the death penalty—by hanging—on people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.” The court argues in favor of this monstrous position for a number of reasons. But a particularly chilling one is its citation of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2022, which overturned Roe v. Wade and has since led to a rash of brutal abortion bans across the country.

“In [Dobbs], the US Supreme Court considered the nation’s history and traditions, as well as the dictates of democracy and rule of law, to overrule the broader right to autonomy,” the Constitutional Court wrote in a 203-page judgment after a legal challenge from human rights activists. “The court considered the implications of upholding the right to autonomy under the guise of personal dignity … and held that it was time to return the permissibility of abortion and the limitations thereon to the people’s elected representatives as demanded by the Constitution and the rule of law. This is precisely what was done with the issue of homosexuality in Uganda.”

In other words, Uganda looked to the cruel, conservative logic of the U.S. legal system to justify its own law to kill queer people. Almost any act of state violence and dehumanization can be justified by the principle of upholding a “nation’s history and traditions.” That includes the government forcing pregnant people—including child rape victims, people at risk of death, or people who simply don’t want to experience the violence of forced pregnancy—to give birth against their will. And, according to Uganda’s Constitutional Court, this logic includes the state executing people for being gay.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 was passed in May and vaguely defines “aggravated homosexuality” as acts that spread terminal illness, involve a “serial offender,” or a person with a disability. It also includes incest and pedophilia. After the law was passed, the U.S. announced sanctions and restrictions on Ugandan passports and the World Bank suspended lending, according to Reuters. Hundreds of Ugandans have since been subjected to attacks, arrests, and human rights violations based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The act also included criminal penalties if a person failed to report a same-sex relationship to the government…but that was among the four provisions that the court struck down on Wednesday.

In upholding the death penalty, Uganda’s Constitutional Court also cited the “absence of consensus at the global level regarding non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics”—which is certainly an indictment of the international community including the U.S., where anti-LGBTQ bills are spreading like a rash across state legislatures, primarily targeting trans youth and any references to or acknowledgment of queer identity in schools.

In Uganda, LGBTQ expression is criminalized under the national penal code, and includes a wide range of sexual acts that are “against the order of nature.” The Constitutional Court’s ruling is a terrifying outcome rendered especially chilling as it holds up a mirror to our own policy landscape, the natural conclusion of upholding “tradition,” and the international ripple effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s cruelty.

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