Global Freedom of Expression


Oloka-Onyango v. Attorney General

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    August 1, 2014
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
    [2014] UGCC 14
  • Region & Country
    Uganda, Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Constitutional Court
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    LGBTI, Sexuality

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 was passed in contravention of the Ugandan Constitution and the Ugandan Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, because quorum was not established when it was being voted on.  As such, the Act, which was enacted by Parliament in December of 2013, was declared null and void.


Professor J Oloka-Onyango, the Honorable Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, Andrew M. Mwenda, Professor Moris Ogenga-Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Semugoma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, Frank Mugisha, Human Rights Awareness & Promotion Forum, and the Centre for Health, Human Rights & Development brought this case before the Constitutional Court of Uganda against the Attorney General on the grounds that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 (Act) violated several articles of the Ugandan Constitution.

Eleven issues were raised before the court, including violation of freedom of expression, the right to privacy, principles of legality, the right to equality, freedom from discrimination, the right to dignity, and of rights guaranteed under various international human rights instruments (the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, inter alia). However, the case was decided on one issue: whether or not quorum was met at the time the Act was passed.  The Constitutional Court held that, because quorum was not met, the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 was passed in violation of the Constitution and must be invalidated.

Freedom of expression was explicitly discussed in section (i), which alleges that “Sections 7 and 13(1) & (2) of the Anti- Homosexuality Act2014, in criminalising aiding, abetting, counseling, procuring and promotion of homosexuality, create offences that are overly broad, penalise, legitimate debate, professional counsel, HIV related service provision and access to health services, in contravention of the principle of legality, the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association, and the right to civic participation guaranteed under Principle XIV of the National objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, Articles 2(1)&(2), 8A, 28(1), (3b), & 12, 29(1), 36, 38(2), 42 and 44(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.”

Decision Overview

Although the petition was brought up on numerous issues, the Constitutional Court of Uganda made its ruling on one question of law: was the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 passed in Parliament without quorum, thereby in violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure?

The Court acknowledged that if this threshold, procedural issue was decided first, the entire petition could be disposed of without addressing the other issues presented. After considering the evidence on the issue of quorum, the Court held that quorum was not established when Parliament voted on the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. Thus, this failure to establish a quorum rendered the Act’s passing a constitutional violation, and, therefore, void.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

The outcome of this case before the Constitutional Court of Uganda can be considered “mixed,” because although the Court pronounced Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Act 2014 to be null and void, it did so on a procedural rather than a substantive  ground.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback