Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
Lawyer and LLD candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape
Laws prohibiting blasphemy are astonishingly widespread worldwide with many countries criminalising conduct deemed blasphemous with disparate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty. A comprehensive report prepared by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found that 71 countries prohibit views deemed blasphemous. These laws have dire consequences for those who find themselves on their wrong side as the most recent and much publicised case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan has demonstrated.
South of the Sahara, the report found that only four countries criminalise blasphemy. Uganda did not make that list. This is despite the provisions of Chapter III, sections 118-122 of the Penal Code Act. Sections 118-121 proscribe conduct that involves the destruction or damage or defilement of any place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion; disturbing religious assemblies, trespassing on burial places hindering burial of a dead body. The utility and legality of these provisions is not inherently the protection of religions and religious ideas and their constitutional validity will not be canvassed at this point.