LGBTIQ Rights in Africa: One Step Forward, One Step Back

Published: October 29, 2014

The Huffington Post
Original Article:

In September, government ministers in Chad voted to criminalize same-sex relations. The bill will become law if Chad’s President ratifies the decision.

In late August, the National Assembly in The Gambia passed a bill that punishes people with life in prison for the crime of so-called "aggravated homosexuality." Already gay people can go to jail for up to 14 years for having sex. It seems likely The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will pass this legislation any day, making the punishment even harsher. In February on state television he said, "We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively." And in news yesterday, religious leaders in Liberia are now blaming homosexuality for the Ebola pandemic. Yup.

Being an out member of the LGBQTI community can be challenging and dangerous worldwide, but especially in Africa where homosexuality is currently illegal in 38 out of 54 countries. LGBQTI individuals in these countries can face life-long prison terms, public outing, shaming, harassment, and vigilante justice including "corrective rape", a charming term for sexual violence perpetrated against a suspected lesbian to cure her of her sexual deviance.

The past 12 months have been particularly difficult for LGQBTI individuals across Africa. Countries like Nigeria, Burundi, and Uganda passed laws that criminalize same-sex marriage, LGBQTI advocacy groups, and public displays of affection. Politicians in even more moderate African countries, including Kenya and Tanzania, are voicing aspirations for similar legislation. A 2013 Pew Research Global Attitudes Project report found that 98% of Nigerians are extremely homophobic; if you are gay in Nigeria, or any of these nations, prison is the last place you want to be.

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