Africa: LGBTI people face 'relentless' oppression after surge in discriminatory laws - new briefing

Last year saw a new wave of harsh anti-LGBTI legislation across Africa

31 countries still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity

LGBTI people are threatened with arbitrary arrests, detentions and the death penalty in some places

‘Africa is facing a deepening crisis of homophobic lawfare’ - Tigere Chagutah

LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people across Africa are facing a catastrophic rollback on their fundamental rights following the introduction of discriminatory legislation in several countries, said Amnesty International today (9 January).

In a new briefing looking at 12 African countries, Amnesty has documented a staggering rise in legislation being used to systematically target and persecute LGBTI individuals in 2023.

Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said:

“Africa is facing a deepening crisis of homophobic lawfare. LGBTI people across Africa are finding themselves contending with a disturbing regression of progress, facing relentless obstacles to their legal and social rights.

“Arbitrary arrests and detentions have become all too common, with authorities treating the mere act of being an LGBTI person as a criminal offence. In some places, the death penalty looms as a brutally unjust punishment for LGBTI people simply being who they are.”

Draconian homophobic laws

In Africa, 31 countries still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity, despite the clear contradiction with established African Union and international human rights standards.

However, over the past year, Amnesty has witnessed a concerning crackdown on LGBTI rights, as authorities reinforce existing anti-LGBTI laws and introduce new legislation to further erode the rights of LGBTI individuals.

  • In Uganda, where consensual same-sex activity was already illegal, LGBTI people are now facing further threats to their rights and safety following the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2023.
  • In Kenya, the Family Protection Bill was proposed in 2023. The Bill aims to prohibit consensual same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which would have significant implications for the human rights of LGBTI people in the country.
  • In Ghana, which has a record of human rights abuses against LGBTI people, the situation could be set to worsen if Parliament proceeds with the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 – one of the most stringent anti-LGBTI Bills on the continent.
  • In Burundi, a country where LGBTI people already face social ostracism and jail terms of up to two years if convicted of same-sex offences, the President recently called on citizens to stone LGBTI people.
  • In Malawi, LGBTI people face an alarming and hostile environment, with discriminatory legislation and ongoing human rights violations creating an atmosphere of fear and oppression. The refusal to repeal harmful homophobic legislation has left LGBTI people vulnerable to harassment and discrimination daily.

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Director for West and Central Africa, said:

“The challenges faced by LGBTI people in Africa extend beyond the realm of legality and the abuse of law has undoubtedly heightened their vulnerability and underlines the urgent need for coordinated regional and international intervention.

“We must advocate for their rights, and work towards a world where justice and equality prevail, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Amnesty is calling on African states and governments to urgently repeal or refrain from efforts to criminalise LGBTI people, and to protect the human rights of all people equally and without discrimination.

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