LGBTQ gains in Africa

September 3, 2015

From the September-October 2015 issue of News & Letters

Mozambique, in July, saw same-sex relationships decriminalized in accordance with the revised penal code former President Armando Guebuza signed more than a year earlier. Previously, such relationships were coded under the law as “vices against nature,” a sentiment introduced by Mozambique’s colonizer, Portugal.

Elsewhere in Africa, some nations, even while maintaining European colonial-era anti-sodomy laws, are taking important steps for Queer rights:

Kenya—In April, the Kenyan National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was granted the right to be registered with Kenya’s government. Kenya’s High Court said that human rights cannot be limited because of moral and religious beliefs. They noted that the country’s Penal Code criminalizes certain sexual acts as being “against nature,” but does not criminalize homosexuality, the state of being homosexual nor the right of people to freely associate based on their sexual orientation. It is a matter of human dignity.

Members and friends of Lesbians Gays & Bisexuals of Botswana express themselves. Picture credit: photos/legabibo/

Members and friends of Lesbians Gays & Bisexuals of Botswana express themselves.
Picture credit:

Botswana—In late 2014, Queer rights organization Lesbians, Gays & Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) was granted the right to be registered with their government. Botswana’s High Court said that Botswana’s 2012 refusal to register LEGABIBO violated the group’s right to equal protection and their freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Court further stated that Botswana’s laws prohibiting same-sex sexual acts do not criminalize homosexuality and do not criminalize advocacy for the reform of laws. The court said that LGB people have the same rights as anyone else, no matter the laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct.

Zambia—In May, human rights activist Paul Kasonkomono’s right to advocate for human rights was upheld by both the Zambian Magistrate’s Court and the High Court. Kasonkomono was arrested for “soliciting for immoral purposes” in a public place when he, on a program of a privately owned television channel, advocated for human rights for both sexual minorities and sex workers. Both courts upheld Kasonkomo’s right to advocate for people’s rights and distinguished that from a violation of Zambia’s criminal act of soliciting anyone to engage in same-sex sexual acts.

All of these gains in the right of public expression are welcome and will allow more freedom to advocate for the equal treatment of LGBT fellow citizens as human beings. Many people, in nation after nation across Africa, are watching, waiting and working for that.

—Elise Barclay

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