The month of June is recognized as pride month, set aside to commemorate and celebrate members of the LGBTQ community around the world. In recent times Pride month has been met with highly publicized fanfare— a nod to a change in practices, a rise in lgbtq rights, and general acceptance by the world in general. However, while much of the world seems to be clear on where it stands with regards to the lgbtq community, Africa has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde predisposition towards homosexuality.
Ever a highly conservative place on world issues, the question on if the second most populous continent in the world has grown ‘soft’ on the matter has no clear answers when it is considered on a collective scale. To truly decipher where Africa stands, a look at lgbtq rights as they pertain to major African powerhouses is needed.
On face value, it is apparent that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender as well as questioning rights in Africa are of a very limited nature in comparison to many other areas of the world, that is, with the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde.
The United Nations and the African Union both officially recognize 54 states in the continent. Of this number, homosexuality, or any form of sexuality that is not strictly heterosexual, is considered illegal and punishable under the law in about 34, as noted by the International Gay and Lesbian Association in 2015. That’s approximately 63 percent. In another two countries; Benin and the Central African Republic, as observed by the body Human Rights Watch, homosexuality is not outlawed. However, there is a difference in how the law is applied when it comes to heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, and Rwanda are all [African] countries where homosexuality has never been outlawed. In Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Seychelles and South Africa, the law has changed hands; where homosexuality was outlawed, it has now been legalized.
The odds against homosexuality are stacked high in Africa however with majority of the continent in vehement disapproval of lgbtq rights. Where some countries, since the 2010s have made efforts hat cut down opposing movements of the gay community, many countries in Africa have in turn turned up the volume on lgbtq clamp down, maintaining a staunch “no gays” policy. So severe is the opposition in that in some locations, such as Sudan, southern Somalia, Somaliland, Mauritania and northern Nigeria, homosexuals can be put to death under the confines of the law, and in Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone, the highest punishment that can be meted out is life imprisonment. To drive home the unwelcoming nature, laws in Nigeria not only prohibit homosexuality, but also apply to supporters of offenders, whether homosexual or heterosexual, with a jail term of up to 10 years on the line. South Africa remains the most liberal state, even granting same-sex marriages a legal status. Socially, Cape Verde holds the mantle as being the most acceptable.
The concentration of anti-gay oppositions in Africa is perhaps the highest anywhere in the world. The implications in social life mean homosexuals are highly unwelcome in any aspect of regular life in Africa— homosexuals cannot even serve in the military in many of these countries. While the world celebrates gay rights in pride month, much of Africa maintains the lgbtq community is met with stigma and disapproval.
NB: At the time of this article’s writing, the statistics given were accurate. However, because the world is every changing, some data has also undergone some changes. Presently, Gabon has become one of the countries to decriminalize being a part of the LGBTQ community