Uganda’s Constitutional Court has annulled tough anti-gay legislation signed into law in February.
It ruled that the bill was passed by MPs in December without the requisite quorum and was therefore illegal.
Homosexual acts were already illegal, but the new law allowed for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality” and banned the “promotion of homosexuality”.
Several donors have cut aid to Uganda since the law was adopted.
Uganda is a deeply conservative society where many people oppose gay rights and the sentence for homosexual acts has always been life imprisonment.
Earlier drafts of the anti-homosexuality act made it a crime not to report gay people – which would have made it impossible to live as openly gay – but this clause was removed.
However the legislation that was passed in parliament was “null and void”, the presiding judge at the Constitutional Court said, as not enough lawmakers had been present to vote on the bill.
The law, which was signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, toughened up existing laws.
Lesbians were covered for the first time and those found living in a same-sex marriage could have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
“Justice prevailed, we won,” the AFP news agency quotes lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, who led the challenge, as saying.
Kosiya Kasibayo, a lawyer for the state, said a decision had not been made on whether to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court, the Associate Press news agency reports.
Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act:
- Life imprisonment for gay sex, including oral sex
- Life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”, including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive
- Life imprisonment for living in a same-sex marriage
- Seven years for “attempting to commit homosexuality”
- Between five and seven years in jail or a $40,700 (£24,500) fine or both for the promotion of homosexuality
- Businesses or non-governmental organisations found guilty of the promotion of homosexuality would have their certificates of registration cancelled and directors could face seven years in jail