The Chief Magistrates Court in Uganda has dismissed charges against Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa, two LGBT Ugandans charged with engaging in homosexual sex acts.
Mukasa, a 19-year-old trans woman, and Mukisa, a 24-year-old gay man, were arrested earlier this year for violating section 145 of Uganda's Penal Code Act of 1950, which criminalizes sex "against the order of nature." This was the first time anyone in Uganda had stood trial for this "crime" since the country's Anti Homosexuality Bill was signed into law in February.
In August, the law was nullified on a technicality, but some human rights activists are concerned that not all Ugandan lawmakers have given up on its implementation.
In a statement released Wednesday, Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director of the Uganda-based Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), recounted that Mukasa and Mukisa's case had been adjourned four separate times because the state failed to produce any witnesses. On Wednesday, when prosecution failed yet again to produce witnesses, the State Attorney requested a fifth adjournment. It was then that Mukasa and Mukisa's attorney, Ms. Fridah Mutesi from HRAPF, asked the Magistrate to dismiss the case. According to Jjuuko, she argued that "the failure of the state to produce witnesses was prejudicial to her clients who have had charges that attract a penalty of life imprisonment hanging over their heads since January 2014."
The Magistrate granted Mutesi's request, ruling that the prosecution had "no sufficient reason to ask for further adjournment."
Mukisa and Mukasa have been granted their freedom. However, since anti-sodomy laws are still on the books — and since many of their fellow Ugandans seem to want such laws enforced — they could potentially be arrested again in the future.
Regardless, it seems obvious that the couple have a long road ahead of them, as Jjuuko notes. "Their lives have been shattered by the charges, and this indeed is the greatest effect of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a country that is largely homophobic."
Here is a timeline of the events surrounding Mukisa and Mukasa's arrests.