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July 29, 2014

The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa

Nearly 50 African heads of state have been invited to gather in Washington, D.C. on August 4-6 for President Barack Obama’s historic U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Announced by the White House as the “largest single engagement by any U.S. President with Africa”, the summit will provide Obama Administration officials with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to directly engage these African leaders and their delegations on a number of critical issues.

We believe that the protection and preservation of the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Africans should be one of the many important areas of discussion. Millions of LGBT people throughout Africa face the threat of harassment, discrimination, prosecution, and violence on a daily basis, and others remain vulnerable to increasingly dangerous and concerted efforts to stoke state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia.

This joint report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First surveys 54 African nations and provides a brief overview of: existing anti-LGBT laws and efforts to enact new measures; publicly known instances of discrimination and violence; the presence and activity of LGBT rights organizations; and encouraging signs of support for LGBT people. Although limited progress is being made in some nations, the situation for LGBT Africans in many others remains dire and is growing increasingly perilous. 

Key Findings

  • 37 African nations criminalize same-sex relationships
  • 4 African nations allow for the death penalty against LGBT people in all or some of the country
  • 2 African nations, Nigeria and Uganda, have implemented new laws in the last 12 months
  • 2 African nations have laws against LGBT “propaganda”
  • 1 African nation grants full marriage equality and constitutional discrimination protection to its LGBT citizens

President Obama declared in 2011 that the “struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.” Both Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton have affirmed this commitment, and the Obama Administration has taken tangible, concrete steps to advance the cause of achieving full LGBT equality abroad.

Africa is not simply waiting for assistance from outside forces. People on the ground throughout the continent are taking bold stances in support of human rights and equality for all. Activists are providing direct assistance to LGBT people, bringing cases of rights violations to court, growing public acceptance within their countries and demanding political change. This includes leaders of civil society as well as elected and appointed leaders; this report also aims to highlight some of those voices.

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