UKPC’s Statement on the Court of Appeal’s Decision in the SMUG Case



Kampala, Uganda – 13 March 2024 – The Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC) issues a statement expressing profound concern following the Court of Appeal’s ruling yesterday (12 March 2024) in Uganda regarding the case Frank Mugisha & 2 others vs. the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (Civil Appeal No. 223 of 2018). The case centred on the Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s (URSB) refusal to reserve the name Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). The rejection was grounded in the assertion that SMUG’s objectives violated Ugandan laws, deeming activities supporting LGBTIQ+ individuals unlawful.

In response to the ruling, Richard Lusimbo, Director General of the Uganda Key Populations Consortium, stated, “This decision is a significant setback for the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda. It perpetuates the marginalisation and discrimination faced by individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In Uganda, entities aiming to register as non-governmental organisations must first be incorporated under Ugandan law. SMUG’s attempt to reserve its name in 2012 encountered significant delay, culminating in a rejection from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in 2016. URSB argued that SMUG’s focus on LGBTIQ+ advocacy was “undesirable” due to existing laws against supporting “the activities of LGBTI persons.” Frank Mugisha and others challenged this decision on the basis of violating constitutional rights to freedom of association and expression for LGBTIQ+ individuals. The challenge was initially dismissed in the High Court, leading to the subsequent appeal.

The Court of Appeal’s decision notably refrained from directly addressing the fundamental issue of freedom of association for LGBTIQ+ individuals. The lead judgement emphasised that the appeal concerned the reservation of a name rather than broader societal behaviours. This approach significantly impedes the LGBTIQ+ community’s ability to advocate for their rights, effectively marginalising their voices within the Ugandan legal framework.

The ruling carries two significant implications. Firstly, by evading the core issue of freedom of association for the LGBTIQ+ community, the Court prolongs uncertainty surrounding the enforcement of constitutional rights. Secondly, the decision reinforces URSB’s stance that entities advocating for LGBTIQ+ rights cannot attain legal recognition in Uganda, severely limiting collective efforts to address challenges faced by the LGBTIQ+ community and advocate for their constitutionally protected rights.

UKPC has meticulously examined the judgement and stands in unwavering solidarity with SMUG and the broader LGBTIQ+ community. We are dedicated to challenging this decision and will persist in our endeavours to cultivate an inclusive Uganda where the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientations and identities, are not only safeguarded but also promoted and upheld.

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