It took commitment and tenacity, but last week the Ugandan organisation Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) celebrated an important legal victory by winning a case they had filed in January 2009. The ruling of the court in favour of HRAPF is another step in breaking down legislative barriers that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
HRAPF successfully challenged Section 15(6)d of the Equal Opportunities Commision Act, a provision that barred the Commission from investigating “any matter involving behavior which is considered to be immoral and socially harmful, or unacceptable by the majority of the cultural and social communities in Uganda.” The court declared this article unconstitutional because it contradicts the core purpose of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which is specifically meant to eliminate and redress inequalities. The court also agreed with HARPF’s arguments that the article is in breach of the right to a fair hearing and freedom from discrimination and the rights of minorities, all guaranteed in the Ugandan Constitution, and found that such a limitation of the right to a fair hearing is not acceptable nor justifiable in a free and democratic society.
The courts’ conclusions are of great importance for LGBTI people living in Uganda, since their rights are all too often ignored or violated, as are the rights of organisations that defend them. Only in May of this year, the office of the HRAPF was violently raided. A guard was killed and documents were stolen. HRAPF current success in Court gives us hope that also in the case of this raid, and in many other cases, investigations will lead to charging and trying the perpetrators of such violent attacks, and that the Court will uphold the law.
Hivos has supported the important work of HRAPF since 2012, which has ensured the establishment and smooth operation of the Legal Aid Clinic for LGBTI persons and sex workers in Uganda, and consequently increased access to justice for LGBTI persons and sex workers. HRAPF stands up for the human rights of all Ugandan citizens in a context where this implies serious risks. By doing so, they challenge the public opinion about LGBTI rights and manage to take steps towards equality before the law of all citizens. Hivos highly values their work and the staff who carry it out. We consider it of great importance to support and cherish brave organisations like HRAPF.
Photo: Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director of HRAPF, © HRAPF