The hearing of the case of Frank Mugisha and 2 others Vs URSB,(SMUG Case) was yesterday postponed to Thursday 8th June 2017 at 9:00am after Justice Patricia Basaza Wasswa failed to turn up in court. The court issued the new date and explained the postponement was due to the magistrate’s unavailability.
This was a follow up from the last hearing on 28th April from which all parties sought permission to make written submissions, which was granted by the court. The applicants were required to file their submissions by the 15th May 2017, and the respondents (URSB), were to respond by 22nd May 2017.
Sexual Minorities Uganda is challenging the refusal by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau to incorporate it as a company limited by guarantee.
In 2012, Sexual Minorities Uganda took steps to be registered as a company limited by guarantee so as to fully enjoy the benefits and obligations of a registered organization as stipulated in the Ugandan law. However, the Uganda Registration Service Bureau, which is the office of the government in charge of name reservation and registration of companies, denied the reservation of their name on grounds that same sexual relations are criminalized under the section 145 of the penal code act.
In the filed case, SMUG challenges the refusal to reserve its name and by extension the registration of the organization which is a violation of its rights including; the right to freedom of association, expression, right to equal protection of the law, right to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies or government through civic organization among others, all which are expressly protected in the constitution of the Republic of Uganda and accrue to everyone regardless of their status.
The refusal to reserve the name Sexual Minorities Uganda on grounds that same sex relations are prohibited is a gross violation of the right to association as guaranteed by the constitution. While change of the name has in the past been suggested, doing so would require that SMUG which seeks to improve the human rights situation of sexual minorities in Uganda through advocacy, policy reforms and economic empowerment among others change its objectives and the work they do.
It should be remembered that the High Court has in the past ruled that section 145 of the penal code only criminalizes same sexual acts and NOT the person and thus cannot be relied upon to deny the registration of an organization providing lawful support services to a marginalized group.