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International Relations, PUBLICATIONS

Being a LGBTI person in African countries

Written by Eric Pichon, Anne Vernet,

[last update 12/03/2019]

LGBTI in Africa

© torbakhopperHE_DEAD (CC-BY-ND 2.0)

Three African countries out of five have laws criminalizing homosexuality, or even punishing LGBTI* rights advocacy ( ILGA , 2017).. In 2014 tougher laws were passed in Nigeria, Gambia and Uganda, which followed in the steps of Liberia’s criminalisation of homosexuality in 2012. Last year, the deterioration of the situation of the LGBTI community in Tanzania prompted donors like Denmark to withhold aid.

On a more promising note, Angola , like Mozambique in 2015, decriminalised same sex relationships earlier this year, while the first-ever LGBTI Pride parade on the Continent took place in Swaziland in June 2018. Kenya and Botswana are currently fighting against the legal discrimination of homosexuals in court, which could lead to the decriminalisation of same-sex relations.

Amongst asylum seekers coming to Europe every year, thousands have left their countries as a result of violence and persecution, including on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTI asylum seekers are discriminated against twice : as migrants, and also on the basis of their sexual identity.

As  developments in Europe and America have showed, having non-discriminative laws doesn’t prevent homophobic feeling; but when this feeling is encouraged or not punished by the authorities, it can favour violence towards LGBTI people, including rapes and killings. Furthermore it leads LGBTI people to live in hiding which increases mental or physical health problems among the population.

On several occasions the European Parliament has reminded the EU of its commitment against all forms of discrimination in all the places it acts.

(*LGBTI: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex people ** SOGI: sexual orientation and gender identity)

Overview: the legal framework in African countries

Amnesty International provides a map showing the African countries where homosexuality is illegal, as of January 2014.

Broader in scope,  The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa by Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First (July 2014) shows that changes have only been for the worse, but it also traces signs of support from well-known Africans.

ILGA’s maps of sexual orientation laws in the world , which are produced alongside their annual State-Sponsored Homophobia report , separately chart where criminalisation, protection and recognition laws are enacted globally.

Legal provisions concerning homosexual behaviour,  gay rights advocacy, or same-sex marriage were compiled by the Library of Congress – Law Library into a well-documented table for 49 African countries ( Criminal Laws on Homosexuality in African Nations , 02/2014).

Punishments for homosexuality in Africa

Focus on some countries

Country reports on the situation of LGBTI persons are available from:

Tanzania

The situation of the LGBTI community in Tanzania, where the penalty for same-sex acts is 30 years to life in prison, has deteriorated in the last couple of years, prompting donors like Denmark to withhold aid .

Tanzania disowns gay witch-hunt plan by city administrator Financial Times, 6 November , 2018.

Campaigners welcome statement but express concern for long-term safety of country’s LGBT community.

Hundreds in hiding as Tanzania launches anti-gay crackdown , The Guardian, 5 November 2018

Dar es Salaam official creates taskforce aimed at finding and punishing LGBT community.

  As Tanzania’s LGBT fear for their lives, HIV will thrive CNN, 1 December 2018

The LGBT communities of Tanzania have faced abuse, violence and arrests since a powerful politician pledged to round up and arrest people suspected of being gay. A trans woman forced to flee the country and an activist share their experiences as experts fear a climate where HIV will thrive.

Tanzania: Clampdown on gays creates climate of hate Deutsche Welle 22 February 2017

Tanzanian President Magufuli’s threat to clamp down on homosexuals is creating a climate of hatred and fear. It is not the first time the government has targeted certain groups, thereby provoking heated debate.

Kenya

Sex acts between men are illegal under Kenyan statutes and carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, but 21 years in certain aggravating circumstances. In late May 2018 the Supreme Court will rule on a case brought by LGBTI organisations on whether to repeal parts of the penal code that criminalize same-sex relations.

Explainer: what’s at stake in Kenyan court case on gay rights The Conversation, 22 February 2019

Kenya’s LGBTI community will have to wait a while longer for the High Court’s ruling on whether it will decriminalise homosexual relationships.

Will the Warm Reception for the Film “Rafiki” Lead to Gains for LGBT Kenyans? World Politics Review, 28 September 2018

Ever since “Rafiki,” the latest film by the acclaimed Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, it has been widely praised by foreign critics and directors and even generated some Oscar buzz. But only in the past week have Kenyans been able to see it for themselves. The film centers on a romance between two women. Ezekiel Mutua, chairman of the Kenya Film Classification Board, or KFCB, banned it domestically, saying it was an attempt by Kahiu “to normalize homosexuality.” Instead of accepting the ban, however, Kahiu challenged Mutua in court.

Kenya’s LGBT community fights for a place in society Deutsche Welle, 6 April2018 .

Homosexual relationships are a crime in most African countries. In Kenya, […] the Supreme Court is now hearing a case seeking to overturn this.

In Kenya and Botswana, Activists Hope to Turn Judges Into LGBT Allies , World Politics Review , 22 March 2018

In the coming months, judges in two African capitals thousands of miles apart are expected to rule on legal challenges that would help break this deadlock and, in the process, go a long way toward transforming the judiciary from a source of repression into an ally. The cases, in Kenya and Botswana, reflect growing enthusiasm for the use of so-called strategic litigation, or litigation intended to advance broader social goals, to promote the human rights of sexual minorities—an approach that has already yielded subsidiary victories in both countries.

Uganda

In 2014, the Ugandan government attempted to introduce the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act , which at first included a provision for the death penalty. It would go on to be declared unconstitutional in Uganda’s courts, but the damage was done, and homophobic violence had been legitimised. People were outed in Ugandan newspapers, one published a list of “ top 200 homosexuals ”, despite knowing that revealing LGBT people’s identities could lead to them being killed . A report by the Ugandan NGO SMUG showed that persecution based on sexual orientation had increased in the two years after the act. (from: Where are the most difficult places to be gay or transgendered? Guardian 1.03.2017).

Cultural values, popular attitudes and democracy promotion: how values mediate the effectiveness of donor support for term limits and LGBT+ rights in Uganda . Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, October 2018.

This discussion paper focusses on two cases that took place in Uganda: Yoweri Museveni’s successful 2005 campaign to remove presidential term limits from the Constitution, and the attempt to pass legislation outlawing homosexuality in 2014. In both cases, OECD donors intervened, to varying degrees, in an effort to uphold basic principles of democracy. Despite popular support for maintaining term limits, donor interventions were unsuccessful in the first case. They were, however, successful in thwarting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, even though it had a high level of popular support.

Gay activists take Ugandan government to court for blocking registration Deutsche Welle, 18 May 2017 . Deutsche Welle

A group of gay rights activists in Uganda have taken a government agency to court for refusing to register their organization. Homosexuality is illegal in the country, and violence against sexual minorities is rife.

Why ‘Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill’? Rethinking the ‘coherent’ state. Paszat, E. Third World Quarterly, v. 38, n. 9, p. 2027–2044, 2017. [EP users only]

As the support network grows, so too will Uganda’s LGBT movement Deutsche Welle, 13 May 2016

Ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and the Global Media Forum, leading Ugandan gay rights activist Kasha Nabagesera speaks with DW on the LGBT movement in Uganda and how it compares to elsewhere.

Responding to LGBT forced migration in East Africa Gitta Zomorodi, Forced Migration Review No. 52 – Thinking ahead: displacement, transition, solutions , May 2016.

Uganda’s Least Equal Voters: The L.G.B.T.I. , New York Times, 16 February 2016

The Politics of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Legislation . Ben Shepherd, Chatham House, 24 February 2014.

For the author, the new law imposing life sentences for homosexuality will attract a backlash from international donors, but in the short term, it might well earn Uganda’s President Museveni popular support.

Situation of LGBT persons in Uganda Danish Immigration Service, January 2014

Nigeria

The country threatens 14 year prison sentences for homosexual acts, and under a law passed in 2013, any Nigerian who belongs to a gay organisation can also be liable for a 10 year jail term. These laws, along with Sharia law in Muslim areas of the country mean it’s not safe to publicly identify as LGBT in many parts of Nigeria. ( Where are the most difficult places to be gay or transgendered? Guardian 1.03.2017).

2018 Report on Human Rights Violations based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigeria , The initiative for equal rights, December 2018.

This report documents the ways Nigeria’s current legal framework endorses human rights violations on its own citizens by deeming LGBTQI persons unworthy and undeserving of their fundamental human rights.

>> More reports by The initiative for equal rights on Nigeria here .

As Election Nears, LGBT Nigerians’ Expectations Can’t Get Much Lower, World Politics review, 13 December 2018.

When Love is a Crime: Is the Criminalisation of Same Sex Relations in Nigeria a Protection of Nigerian Culture? Arimoro, A.E. Liverpool Law Review (2018) 39: 221

This paper re-examines the prohibition of same sex relations in Nigeria with a focus on whether the laws protect the culture of the Nigerian people or the moral ideals introduced by religion.

Nigerian gets 20 lashes for gay acts . BBC News, 16 January 2014.

UN human rights chief denounces “draconian” anti-homosexuality law in Nigeria . UN News Service Section, 14 January 2014.

North African countries

Morocco: Situation of LGBT Persons Danish Immigration Service, 21 March 2017

Everything you need to know about being gay in Muslim countries , The Guardian, 21 June 2016

In Saudi Arabia, Sudan , Yemen and Mauritania, sodomy is also punishable by death – though no executions have been reported for at least a decade. Among other Arab countries, the penalty in Algeria , Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia and Syria is imprisonment – up to 10 years in the case of Bahrain. In those that have no specific law against homosexuality, gay people may still be prosecuted under other laws. In Egypt, for example, an old law against “debauchery” is often used. […]The problem with such laws, even if not vigorously enforced, is that they signal official disapproval of homosexuality and, coupled with the fulminations of religious scholars, legitimise discrimination by individuals at an everyday level and may also provide an excuse for action by vigilantes.

After the Arab Spring: a new opportunity for LGBT human rights advocacy? Jayesh Needham. Duke journal of gender law & policy, 2013 Vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 287-324.

South Africa, a regional exception?

South Africa is, to date, the only African state recognizing same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, anti-LGBT feeling is far from absent among the population.

Assessing South Africa’s ambivalent SOGI diplomacy in Africa . Williams C. South African Journal of International Affairs . 2017;24(3):375-394. [EP users only]

South Africa stands out as one of the few states in Africa with constitutional guarantees and a strong legislative framework to protect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights. However, Pretoria’s SOGI stance in Africa is uncertain. While South Africa sometimes assertively supports SOGI rights abroad, at other points it ambivalently backs away from the issue. This paper examines the array of domestic and regional dynamics that inform South Africa’s approach to SOGI issues.

Constitutional Change and Participation of LGBTI Groups: A case study of South Africa IDEA (December 2015)

In 1993 South Africa promulgated its first democratic interim constitution and became the first country in the world to include a prohibition on unfair discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in its constitution. This discussion Paper considers the history and context in which this groundbreaking development occurred.

L’Afrique du Sud et la dépénalisation universelle de l’homosexualité: Echec d’un acteur phare des droits humains ? Sarah Jean-Jacques. IRIS Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (France), Mémoire, 15/10/2014, 149 p.

South Africa appears torn on the international stage between its post-apartheid stances as the African human (and LGBTI) rights champion and its desire to maintain its position as a regional leader. This leads the country to promote the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality at the UN while not condemning African countries which make it a crime.

Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa by Ashley Currier (review) . Chi Mgbako. Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 517–520, 2013.

A detailed review of a book analysing LGBT activists’ visibility strategy across time in South Africa and Namibia.

Tackling corrective rape in South Africa . Luis Abolafia Anguita. The International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 489–516, 2012.

Despite a legislation guaranteeing equal rights to LGBTI people, homophobic feeling is widespread in South Africa and, according to the author, the government doesn’t do much to combat it. The author examines how civil society organisations could engage with official consultative bodies such as the Commission for Gender Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission to enforce anti-homophobic legislation.

Analyses and research

Social, political and legal aspects

Same-sex lives between the language of international LGBT rights, international aid, and anti-homosexuality Seckinelgin H. Global Social Policy. 2018;18(3):284-303.

This article considers how international development aid is used in engaging with sexuality rights in Africa. It considers both the emergence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights as aid conditionality in international aid relations and responses to these from African political leaders.

  Christianity, Globalization, and Protective Homophobia; Democratic Contestation of Sexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa . Kapya, K. Cham : Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

This book examines how socio-political assumptions inform and shape the contestation of sexuality on the African continent. Across Africa, the idea that homosexuality is un-African, un-Christian, un-natural, and un-cultural is now well established. This book analyzes politically- and religiously-inspired protective homophobia within the context of Africa’s socioeconomic and political place in the global community.

Promoting Human Rights Through the EU External Action: An Empty ‘Vessel’ for Sexual Minorities?  Danisi C. (2017) European Foreign Affairs Review 22:3, pp. 341–356

Sexual minorities’ rights are increasingly included in the EU internal as well as external agenda. While the EU normative framework and its internal developments seem to be dominated by the value of equality, doubts arise on the rationale underlying the EU external action. All institutions are indeed involved in this field. While the Commission is called to monitor issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in accession countries, the Council has issued specific Guidelines and the EU Parliament has in turn raised specific concerns in its dialogue with African partners. Although these attempts are welcomed for stressing the need to protect a ‘vulnerable’ group in countries where they have no guarantees, a ‘selective’ non-discrimination approach seems to emerge in most actions having an external dimension. This approach contradicts the EU internal developments and may eventually risk being ineffective and counterproductive for targeted people. Considering the international trend in human rights law towards the recognition of the full spectrum of human rights irrespective of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, this article posits the need for a significant change in the EU external approach in this field.

En Afrique, l’émancipation des homosexuels est liée à celle des femmes Le Monde Afrique, 31 mai 2017

Pour Boris Bertolt, chercheur à l’Université de Kent, la mise au ban des gays sur le continent est une conséquence de la domination masculine imposée par la culture coloniale.

A Development Agenda for Sexual and Gender Minorities , Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, 2016

This paper sets out the theoretical framework for formulating an international development agenda for sexual and gender minorities.

Forging paths for the African queer: is there an “African” mechanism for realizing LGBTIQ rights? Zahrah Z. Devji, Journal of African Law. 2016, Vol. 60 Issue 3, p343-363.

This article analyses two case studies in Africa: Uganda and South Africa . Although each country treats the question of queer rights differently, arguably the treatment of the queer on a day to day basis is not dissimilar in each country. The article considers whether there is a mechanism for realizing queer rights in Africa, by appealing to the values and cultures that exist on the continent.

The Global Politics of Gay Rights: The Straining Relations between the West and Africa. Onapajo H, Isike C.  Journal of Global Analysis . 2016;6(1):21-45.

This article analyses the contemporary global politics of gay rights as it relates to the straining relations between the Western powers and many African states that oppose sexual minorities’ rights. While the West (with emphasis on the United States, EU, and Britain) advocates for the protection of gay rights in the world, Africa provides the largest concentration of states opposed to them. Therefore, there has been rising tension between both regions. This became more apparent after Nigeria and Uganda, respectively, signed their anti-gay bills into law in January and February 2014. In response to this, the Western powers decided to take some punitive measures, especially imposition of sanctions, against the countries to pressurise them to repeal their laws. In an unusual manner, the African states are radically determined to go ahead with their anti-gay laws in open defiance to the demands of the Western powers. This development, which is informed by a number of factors, shows a rather new pattern of behaviour by African states in global politics.

U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good / Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times, 20.12.2015

LGBT rights in Africa and the discursive role of international human rights law / AM Ibrahim, African Human Rights Law Journal (2015) 15 263-281

The protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation under the African human rights system / Rudman, Annika in African human rights law journal , 2015 vol:15 iss:1

This article explores two main problems: first, how the rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination should generally be interpreted and applied under the regional African human rights system when related to sexual orientation. Second, it analyses the procedural or other hurdles that may stand in the way of bringing a claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights or the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Equality of LGBTIQ persons in Africa / Heinrich Böll Foundation (March 2015)

How did the lives for African lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex persons change in 2014? Where are their struggles? An analysis of the progress.

Debating Love, Human Rights and Identity Politics in East Africa: A Socio-Legal Exploration Joe Oloka-Onyango, May 2015

This article reviews recent developments concerning the situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals through legislation and in the East African courts of law, exploring the implications for the wider struggles by sexual minorities for enduring legal recognition and accommodation.

The Political Use of Homophobia, Human Rights and Persecution of LGBTI Activists in Africa , Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2014 28 p.

Homophobia is deliberately fomented by political actors (often presidents and ministers – and not only in Africa) as soon as they get into a legitimacy crisis. Case studies of Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Cameroon .

LGBTI rights – still not there yet, IRIN, 14 July 2014

Two French journals dedicated issues to homosexuality in Africa:

Kees Waaldijk. The Right to Relate: A Lecture on the Importance of “Orientation” in Comparative Sexual Orientation Law . Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 161–199, Fall/2013.

An introduction to a chair in comparative sexual orientation law, clearly laying down and explaining all the concepts involved in this matter.

Homosexuality and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: What Can Be Learned from the History of the European Convention on Human Rights? Johnson, P. (2013), Journal of Law and Society, 40: 249–279.

This article explores what those seeking to develop gay and lesbian rights in Africa might usefully learn from the historical evolution of similar rights under the ECHR.

Struggle for equality: Sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights in Africa / Heinrich Böll Foundation  (October 2010)

Public opinion

Africans tolerant on religion, ethnicity, nationality, and HIV, but not on homosexuality, Afrobarometer survey finds Afrobarometer 1.03.2016

Afrobarometer reports that survey respondents in 33 countries exhibit largely tolerant attitudes toward social differences, with the major exception of homosexuality. Even so, homophobia is not a universal phenomenon in Africa: At least half of all citizens in four African countries say they would not mind or would welcome having homosexual neighbours.

The Global Divide on Homosexuality . Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 4/06/2013.

In the African countries surveyed, homosexuality is widely rejected:  “Should society accept homosexuality?”  the answer is no for 61% of the interviewees in South Africa; 90% in Kenya, 96% in Uganda, Ghana, Senegal; and 98% in Nigeria.

Uganda’s New Anti-Gay Law: Part of a Broader Trend in Africa . National Geographic (USA), 28/02/2014.

Anti-homosexuality legislation is popular in the African countries where they’ve been passed.

Health

The colateral damage in Africa’s anti-homosexuality laws , Mail & Guardian, 18 April 2017

A 2015 report by the Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) found evidence that anti-homosexuality laws “precipitate negative consequences not just for LGBTI persons and communities, but for societies as a whole”. These included “the rapid reversal of key public health gains, particularly in terms of HIV and AIDS and other sexual health programmes, increases in levels of social violence (and) some evidence of reduced economic growth.

Pushback: The Current Wave of Anti-Homosexuality Laws and Impacts on Health . Chris Beyrer. PLoS Medicine, Vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 1–3, 06/2014.

The climate of fear generated by homophobic discrimination and violence leads LGBTI people to live in hiding and avoid health facilities.

International Institution’s positions

Several international fora have expressed their concerns about anti-LGBTI provisions.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Union’s consultative body)

Resolution on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender .  African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 55th Ordinary Session, 05/2014.

The ACHPR “strongly urges States to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by State or non-state actors, including by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.”

United Nations

The Role of the United Nations in Combatting Discrimination and Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People , April 2017.

See also this overview of UN activities combatting SOGI discrimination .

Statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity – letter dated 18 December 2008 from the Permanent Representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway to the United Nations, addressed to the President of the General Assembly, signed by [inter alia] […] Cape Verde, Central African Republic, […],  Gabon, […], Guinea-Bissau, […] Mauritius, […], Sao Tome and Principe, […]

“11. We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.
12. We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice.
13. We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Human Rights Council Resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/17/19) , 15 /06/ 2011

The UN Council ” express[es] grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Resettlement Assessment Tool: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Refugees , UNHCR, 2013

This tool has been developed to enhance UNHCR’s effectiveness and harmonize procedures for assessing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) refugees for resettlement.

Human Rights Council Resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/27/32) , 24/09/2014

“takes note with appreciation of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” ( A/HRC/19/41 )”

Joint UN statement on Ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people , 29 September 2015
The statement is a call to action to Governments to do more to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and abuses against intersex people, and an expression of the commitment on the part of UN entities to support Member States to do so.

UNOHCHR (2015). Report to the Human Rights Council on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/29/23).

Human Rights Council resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/RES/17/19) , 30/06/2016

The UN Council “decides to appoint, for a period of three years, an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz is the current  UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on SOGI . His most recent report is: Report on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity ( A/HRC/38/43 , 2018). Other reports are available here .

UNOHCHR (2016). Living free and equal: What states are doing to tackle violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people .

South Africa’s role in these resolutions : analysis in FR by Sarah Jean-Jacques , 17 November 2014.

See also all UN General Assembly resolutions on SOGI .

EU positions

Treaties

The Treaty of the EU commits the Union to promote its respect for human rights in the wider world (art. 3 TEU) this includes prohibiting  discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (as expressed in the European Charter of Fondamental Rights referred to in art. 6 TEU), in particular in its external relations (art. 10 and 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ).

Council of the European Union

Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons . Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council Meeeting, 24/06/2013.

These guidelines, updating a previous toolkit (2010) indicates the type of conduct to be adopted by EU and Member states representatives in front of anti-LGBTI discrimination, in particular when implementing aid or agreements with foreign countries.

Commission

List of actions by the Commission to advance LGBTI equality / DG for Justice and Consumers (December 2015). See VI External action: LGBTI issues in Enlargement, Neighbourhood and Third Countries.

Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) , the EU supports several projects defending the rights of LGBTI people. For example, one project empowers civil society to challenge homophobic laws and discrimination against LGBTI people, another one gives legal and medical assistance to individuals imprisoned because of their homosexuality.

EP resolutions

Tanzania P8_TA(2018)0527  | Summary

The EP:

“1. Expresses its concern about the deteriorating political situation in Tanzania characterised by a shrinking of the public space through the tightening of restrictions on the activities of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, the media and many political parties; is especially worried about the deteriorating situation for LGBTI persons;

2.  Denounces all incitement to hatred and violence on grounds of sexual orientation; urges the Tanzanian authorities to ensure that Paul Makonda ends his provocation against the LGBTI community and is brought to justice for incitement to violence;

3.  Calls for independent investigations to be conducted into cases of attacks and assaults on journalists, LGBTI people, human rights defenders and opposition party members, with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice;

4.  Reminds the Tanzanian Government of its obligation, including commitments made under the Cotonou Agreement, to protect the rights, dignity and physical integrity of all its citizens in all circumstances;

5.  Calls on Tanzania to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality;

6.  Urges the EU and its Member States to make full use of the LGBT Toolkit to encourage third countries to decriminalise homosexuality, help reduce violence and discrimination and protect LGBTI human rights defenders”

Egypt, notably the situation of human rights defenders – P8_TA(2018)0526

The EP “strongly condemns the continuous restrictions on fundamental democratic rights, notably freedom of expression both online and offline, freedom of association and assembly, political pluralism and the rule of law in Egypt; calls for an end to all acts of violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation, enforced disappearances and censorship directed at human rights defenders, lawyers, protesters, journalists, bloggers, trade unionists, students, women’s rights activists, LGBTI people, civil society organisations, political opponents and minorities, including Nubians, by state authorities, security forces and services and other groups in Egypt; condemns the excessive use of violence against protesters; calls for an independent and transparent investigation into all human rights violations and for those responsible to be held to account”

Somalia – P8_TA(2018)0304

The EP “condemns as a horrific war crime gender-based and sexual violence against women, men, boys and girls, with women and girls particularly affected; calls on the state to step up its efforts to protect vulnerable groups in society; welcomes, in this context, the launching last year by the government, in cooperation with the UN and the EU, of a nationwide judicial training curriculum; reiterates its paramount concern over women’s rights; calls on the relevant authorities to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment; condemns the illegalisation of homosexuality in Somalia and the criminalisation of LGBTI people;”

Executions in Egypt – P8_TA(2018)0035

The EP “Expresses its grave concern at the ongoing restrictions on fundamental democratic rights, notably freedom of expression, association and assembly, political pluralism and the rule of law in Egypt; calls for an end to all acts of violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation, enforced disappearances or censorship directed at political opponents, protesters, journalists, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, civil society actors, LGBTI people, NGOs and minorities, including Nubians, by state authorities, security forces and services and other groups in Egypt; condemns the excessive use of violence against protesters; calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and calls for an independent and transparent investigation into all human rights violations”

Situation in Burundi P8_TA(2017)0004

The EP “is particularly concerned by the dramatic levels of discrimination against, and criminalisation of, LGBTI people in Burundi; calls therefore on the National Assembly and the Government of Burundi to repeal the articles of the penal code which discriminate against LGBTI people”

EU relations with Tunisia in the current regional context – P8_TA(2016)0345

The EP “calls for a reform of the penal code, and in particular for the repeal of Article 230, which penalises homosexuality with imprisonment for three years, and is contrary to the constitutional principles of non-discrimination and the protection of privacy; welcomes the new law replacing and modifying Law 1992-52 on narcotics, which gives priority to prevention instead of dissuasion and establishes alternative penalties that promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of drug users as an appropriate step towards aligning Tunisian legislation with international standards”

Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015.  P8_TA(2016)0502

The EP “is deeply concerned about the increase in violence and discrimination against LGBTI people; firmly condemns the recent increase in discriminatory laws and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, and the fact that 73 countries still criminalise homosexuality (including by charges of ‘debauchery’ against LGBTI people), of which 13 (61) countries allow the death penalty, while 20 countries still criminalise transgender identities; expresses strong concern over so-called ‘propaganda laws’ that seek to limit the freedom of expression and assembly of LGBTI people, and of those who support their rights; calls on all states with such laws to withdraw these provisions; strongly condemns the increasing restrictions of, and the challenging operating conditions on, the freedom of assembly and association of LGBTI groups and rights defenders, and events and protests such as Pride marches, where in some instances protesters have been met with violent responses from authorities; reaffirms the crucial role of these fundamental freedoms in the functioning of democratic societies, and the responsibility of states in ensuring that such rights are upheld and that those exercising them are protected; requests that the EEAS prioritise and strengthen its actions in countries with a prevalence of violence, killings, abuse and discrimination directed against LGBTI people, by condemning these practices in accordance with the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty and the EU Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and by continuing to work with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in this field; stresses the importance of supporting the work of LGBTI HRDs, through increased support and resources for effective programming, by launching awareness campaigns, also financed via the EIDHR, among the general public on the discrimination and violence directed against LGBTI people, and by ensuring the provision of emergency assistance to those in need of such support; calls on the EU Delegations and the relevant institutions actively to promote these rights and fundamental freedoms”

Situation in the Gambia P8_TA(2016)0219

The EP “8.  Urges the Government of The Gambia and the regional authorities to take all necessary measures to stop the discrimination against, and attacks and criminalisation of, LGBTI people and to guarantee their right to freedom of expression, including the removal of provisions criminalising LGBTI people from the Gambian Criminal Code”

Nigeria – P8_TA(2016)0130

The EP “Calls on the Nigerian Government and regional authorities to stop criminalising the Nigerian LGBTI community and to guarantee their right to freedom of expression”

Situation in Nigeria –  P8_TA(2015)0185

The EP “21 Reiterates its calls for the abolition of the anti-homosexuality law and of the death penalty”

28th session of the UNHRC. P8_TA(2015)0079

The EP “44.  Expresses its concern about the recent increase in the number of discriminatory laws and practices, and of acts of violence against individuals, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people […]; welcomes the UNHRC resolution on combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, adopted on 26 September 2014; reaffirms its support for the High Commissioner’s continued work to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign”

The work of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. P8_TA(2015)0035

The EP “15.  Reiterates its deep concern over the adoption and discussion of legislation further criminalising homosexuality in some ACP countries; calls on the JPA to place this on the agenda for its debates”

Situation in Egypt. P8_TA(2015)0012

The EP “17. Expresses its outrage at the intensifying clampdown against the LGBT community in Egypt urges the Egyptian authorities to cease criminalising LGBT people, on the basis of the ‘debauchery law’, for expressing their sexual orientation and for assembling, and to release all LGBT people arrested and imprisoned under this law”

Freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt. P8_TA(2014)0007

The EP “13. […] urges the Egyptian authorities to cease criminalising LGBT people for expressing their sexual orientation and right of assembly”

Nigeria, recent attacks by Boko Haram. P8_TA(2014)0008

The EP “12. Reiterates its calls for the abolition of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law, along with sections 214, 215 and 217 of the Nigerian Penal Code, which would put LGBT people – both Nigerian nationals and foreigners – at serious risk of violence and arrest;”

Launching consultations to suspend Uganda and Nigeria from the Cotonou Agreement in view of recent legislation further criminalising homosexuality 2014/2634(RSP)

Recent moves to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people 2014/2517(RSP)

Declaration of the EP-PAP Parliamentary Summit to the IVth Africa-EU Summit: moves to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda and Nigeria were discussed in the 2014 parliamentary summit and included in its declaration .

The situation in Nigeria 2013/2691(RSP)

The EP “17.  Considers deeply regrettable the adoption of the Same-Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, which makes it a crime to be in a same-sex relationship, support the rights of LGBT people, operate a gay-friendly venue or display affection between two people of the same sex; calls on the President of Nigeria, therefore, not to sign the law passed by the House of Representatives, which would put LGBT people – both Nigerian nationals and foreigners – at serious risk of violence and arrest”

2010 revision of the Cotonou agreement P7_TA(2013)0273

Parliament gave its consent to the ratification in June 2013, but expressed ‘its strongest reservations about parts of the Agreement which do not reflect the position of the European Parliament and the values of the Union’. Parliament objected, in particular, to the absence of an explicit clause on ‘non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation’

Violence against lesbian women and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Africa 2012/2701(RSP)

EU Strategy for the Horn of Africa 2012/2026(INI)

The EP “40.  Stresses that human rights, especially the rights of women, children, LGBT people and religious minorities, have long been neglected in the region, and notes that sectarian Islamism has spread in parts of the Horn of Africa and is threatening minority freedoms”

Uganda: the killing  [on 26 January 2011] of [gay rights activist] David Kato  2011/2573(RSP)

Uganda: the so-called ‘Bahati bill’ and discrimination against the LGBT population 2010/3009(RSP)

Uganda: anti-homosexual draft legislation  2009/2805(RSP)

Member states

Communiqué relatif à l’arrêt dit du « mariage franco-marocain entre personnes de même sexe » du 28 janvier 2015 . Cour de cassation (France), 28/01/2015.

A convention between France and Morocco “provides that, to determine whether marriage is allowed, it is necessary to consider for each spouse, the law of the State of which he is a national”. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Morocco; nevertheless, the French Court of Cassation stated that ” Marriage between persons of the same sex is a fundamental freedom that an agreement between France and Morocco shall not impede if the future Moroccan spouse has a link with France, as his home.” (unofficial translation)

Le mariage entre personnes de même sexe est une liberté fondamentale à laquelle une convention passée entre la France et le Maroc ne peut faire obstacle si le futur époux marocain a un lien de rattachement avec la France, tel que son domicile.

NGOs

Canaries in the Coal Mines Country Reports The Other foundation, 2017

To assess the depth and nature of social exclusion of LGBTI people across southern Africa and better understand how LGBTI groups are organizing to transform that reality, the Other Foundation commissioned studies of ten countries in southern Africa: Angola , Botswana , Lesotho , Malawi , Mauritius , Mozambique , Namibia , Swaziland , Zambia and Zimbabwe .

LGBTI Civil Society Organizations Around the Globe: Challenges, Successes, and Lessons Learned The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Global Trends in NGO Law, Volume 7, Issue 2 (May 2016).

We Exist: Mapping LGBTQ Organizing in West Africa   Mariam Armisen, 2016

New report maps the growth of LGBTQ organizing in West Africa, highlighting challenges and opportunities. The report concludes with stakeholders’ recommendations for the priorities and management of a fund led by West African LGBTQ activists. Also in FR.

Breaking the Silence: Criminalisation of Lesbians and Bisexual Women and its Impacts Human Dignity Trust, 2016

The report shows that is illegal to be a lesbian in almost a quarter of all the countries in the world. This is the first ever global in-depth analysis of how laws against homosexuality specifically impact lesbians and bisexual women.

SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity)-Related Forced Migration in East Africa: Fleeing Uganda After the Passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act Gitta Zomorodi for Global Philanthropy Project, July 2015

Established in 2009, the Global Philanthropy Project is a collaboration of funders and philanthropic advisors to expand global philanthropic support to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the Global South and East.

Why gay rights is a development issue in Africa, and aid agencies should speak up / Hannah Stoddart, Oxfam Blog, 9.01.2015

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Being a LGBTI person in African countries

  1. This is quite informative. I was only aware of information about Nigeria and Uganda. Thanks for this concise list. We still have a long way to go in the fight for equality.

    Like

    Posted by femistrange | December 9, 2016, 00:51

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