Perspectives #04/2010: Struggle for Equality - Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Human Rights in Africa


Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries. In some countries offenders can be punished with death and in many more with harsh jail sentences. Recent developments have attracted international attention and once more underlined the precarious human rights situation of LGBTI people on the continent. In Uganda, an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled in parliament, proposing to broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality and to introduce the death penalty under certain circumstances, including for people who have previous convictions of the “offence of homosexuality” or have same sex relations while being HIV-positive. In Malawi, a gay couple was sentenced to 14 years hard labour and only freed after international condemnation.

Fuelled by homophobic utterances of political and religious leaders, opposition to homosexuality is often embedded in tradition, religion and culture. Ignoring factual history, non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities are dismissed on the basis that they are Western imports and “un-African”. The Heinrich Böll Foundation has aimed to empower LGBTI organisations to participate in public life and express the concerns of LGBTI people in the region for many years. It is hoped that this issue of Perspectives will help LGBTI activism in its struggle towards changing Africa into a continent where LGBTI people enjoy the full range of human rights.

What is clear from the articles gathered here is that despite the myriad of challenges and hostile environment there is an ongoing engagement and growing movement towards equality for LGBTI people throughout the continent. So while there may be a long journey ahead, we remain optimistic.

Product details
Date of Publication
Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Africa
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Table of contents

Editorial 3

  • The battle for the recognition of LGBTI rights as human rights
    Sibongile Ndashe 4
  • Understanding homophobia in Africa today
    Marc Epprecht 10
  • State-sponsored homophobia: Experiences from Nigeria
    Dorothy Aken’Ova 16
  • Identity, Law, Justice: Thinking about sexual rights and citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa
    Vasu Reddy 18
  • Women’s rights and lesbian rights: Feminist principles, identities, and heteronormativity in the South African women’s movement
    Nadia Sanger 24
  • Not yet Uhuru for LGBTI people in Zimbabwe: Interview with Fadzai Muparutsa
    Admire Mare 29