(Jan. 4, 2011) In what rights groups are already calling a landmark ruling, on December 30, 2010, the Ugandan High Court at Kampala ruled that media outlets may not publish information exposing individuals' identity as homosexuals (Uganda Court Ruling Stops Media from Leaking Gay Identities, MALTATODAY (Dec. 3, 2011), http://tinyurl.com/343sjd9). This ruling comes in response to a suit instituted by three individuals against a local newspaper, Rolling Stone, and its managing editor after the paper published, in its October 2, 2010, issue, a story titled “HANG THEM; THEY ARE AFTER OUR KIDS!!!!! Pictures of Uganda's 100 Homos Leak.” The issue listed a number of individuals, whom the paper claimed were homosexuals, alongside their pictures and it promised to publish more such pictures in future issues. (Kasha Jacqueline v. Rolling Stone Ltd. (2010), Miscellaneous Cause No. 163, H. Court of Uganda in Kampala, available at TOWELEROAD (Jan. 3, 2011), http://tinyurl.com/23nfzhy.)
The court granted all of the remedies sought by the applicants. In their claim under section 50 of the Ugandan Constitution, which allows any person whose fundamental rights are “infringed or threatened” to seek redress from the appropriate court, the applicants sought three remedies:
a permanent injunction banning Rolling Stone from publishing the alleged homosexual identity of more individuals;
damages for mental anguish; and
litigation costs (id.)
The court found that the publication “threatened the rights of the applicants to respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment and the right to privacy of the person and home” and it granted the three reliefs sought by the applicants. Accordingly, it awarded each applicant UGX1.5 million (about US$649) in damages. (Id.)
One of the defenses presented by counsel for Rolling Stone was that the applicants are criminals and do not deserve a court hearing. Counsel contended that homosexuality is an offense in Uganda under section 145 of the Penal Code Act and that the applicants' admission to being homosexuals means that “they had not come to court with clean hands and equity would deny them the reliefs sought … .” In rejecting this argument, the court noted that the Ugandan Penal Code Act does not make it an offense to be gay; “[t]he scope of section 145 is narrower than gayism [sic] generally. One has to commit an act prohibited under section 145 in order to be regarded a criminal.” (Id.)
Under current Ugandan law, a homosexual act is an offense punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment (Penal Code Act, § 145, 6 LAWS OF UGANDA, Cap 120 (Rev. ed. 2000)). There is a bill currently pending in the Ugandan Parliament to elevate that crime to a capital offense (Dan Harris, Katie Hinman & Almin Karamehmedovic, Anti-Homosexual Bill in Uganda Causes Global Uproar, ABC NEWS/NIGHTLINE (Mar. 10, 2010), http://tinyurl.com/yksym3o).