Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) with the legal support of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) has today filed an application in the High Court, challenging the refusal by the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) to reserve their name and therefore by extension denying them registration.
SMUG seeks to improve the human rights situation for sexual minorities in Uganda through advocacy, policy reform, economic empowerment, health, counseling, among other services. In 2012, SMUG sought registration as a company limited by guarantee so that it can assume the benefits and obligations of a registered organisation under Ugandan law. The URSB however denied reservation of their name on the grounds that same sex relations are criminalised under Section 145 of the Penal Code.
In the case filed at the High Court, SMUG challenges the refusal to reserve its name and consequently to register the organisation as a violation of the rights to: equal protection of the law; freedom of association; expression; assembly; and conscience; rights of minorities to participate in decision-making processes; affirmative action in favor of a group of persons marginalized by history, tradition and custom; fair treatment in administrative decisions; as well as the right to participatein peaceful activities to influence the policies of government through civic organisations. These are all rights that are expressly protected in the Constitution of Uganda and which accrue to everyone regardless of their status.
The High Court has before ruled that Section 145 of the Penal Code only criminalises specific sexual acts, and not the person. On this basis, the application asserts thatthe Registrar General could not rely on Section 145 do deny registration to an organisation providing legitimate support services to a marginalised community.
The application seeks orders compelling the URSB to reserve the name Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and consequently to register the organisation.
International human rights law and Uganda’s Constitution protect all organisations doing legitimate work including those working with marginalised groups, and the Constitution requires all organs of the state to uphold the Constitution and uphold fundamental human rights. This is the basis of this application.