On the 13 Aug 2021, the Constitutional Court of Uganda declared Certain provisions of the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 unconstitutional. According to the court, the provisions constituted an unjustifiable restriction on the right to freedom of expression
Sections 13(1) and 13(2) of the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014 prohibit, among other things, producing, publishing, or broadcasting any form of pornography, or participation in such activities. They carry a maximum fine of UGX 10,000,000 (approx. 2,832 USD) or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, or both.
The case challenging the provisions of the Act was filed by nine Petitioners including civil society groups and individuals. The Constitutional Court stated that the definition of pornography under section 2 of the Act did not provide for the precise conduct which was prohibited, hence leaving it open to inconsistent application.
Section 2 of the Act defines pornography as: “any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement. The court noted that the Act did not define the phrase ‘indecent show,’ hence no threshold was apparent for conduct that would fall under its ambit.
In 2015, police arrested Jemimah Kansiime, a Ugandan musician, and charged her with contravening this section. Her arrest was related to a song in which she euphemistically referred to men’s sexual prowess. Jemimah was the first Ugandan to be prosecuted under the Act. Her case was postponed pending the outcome of the petition to the constitutional court. Police also arrested Ugandan model Judith Heard and charged her under the same Act because her naked photos had been leaked online.
According to Mr. Mugambi Kiai, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19, Eastern Africa,
“We welcome the judgement and reiterate that provisions limiting freedom of expression must be drafted in a clear and unambiguous manner; otherwise they are open to abuse by law enforcement officials and authorities. Provisions that are ambiguous and vague leave room for inconsistent application, thus leading to uncertainty in the law.’’
Section 11, which gives the Pornography Control Committee unchecked enforcement and policing powers including inspection, search and seizure without judicial oversight, was also declared unconstitutional.
Source: Article 19