Pressure on South Africa to host talks to end persecution of gender non-conforming and trans Africans


 By Liesl Louw-Vaudran for the Mail & Guardian.

8 august 2014

Originally Published on:

Rights groups are putting pressure on SA to hold an Africa-wide seminar on discrimination and violence that has been postponed several times.

The department of international relations and co-operation says it still plans to host an Africa-wide seminar on violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, even though the meeting has been postponed several times since it was first mooted more than a year ago.

Altogether 38 African countries have laws that criminalise homosexuality and in Mauritania, Sudan and Nigeria it is punishable by death. The issue has lately become a political tool for some African heads of state, such as Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Last week, the Ugandan Constitutional Court rejected a new anti-gay law that would have imposed even more stringent regulations against homosexuality than those already in place.

Rights groups across the continent now accuse South Africa of stalling on the crucial meeting to follow up on a United Nations report titled Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence Against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

“It is essential for policymakers and gatekeepers to have a dialogue with civil society on this issue,” says Tendai Thondhlana, spokesperson for African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (Amsher), based in Johannesburg. “In some countries, governments say violence against sexual minorities doesn’t exist. It is up to us to show them the evidence.”

South Africa, together with Brazil and Norway, was instrumental in passing a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 that led to the report on the issue.

Regional seminars were then held all over the world that fed into the International Conference on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Oslo in April 2013. But none were held in Africa.

No meeting

In March this year, South Africa’s minister of international relations and co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told the UN Human Rights Council that the meeting would be held before the end of June this year, but this has not happened.

The international relations and co-operation department’s spokesperson, Nelson Kgwete, responding to written questions from the Mail & Guardian, says: “South Africa is planning to hold the African regional seminar focusing on finding practical solutions for violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The objective thereof will be to facilitate an open and constructive dialogue on the issue of discrimination and acts of violence against individuals … and generate greater understanding on the root causes of these challenges. It is key to note that the objective of the seminar is not to create new or special rights.”

Kgwete denies that South Africa is succumbing to pressure from other African countries where anti-homosexual laws are in place.

“South Africa remains a sovereign and democratic state, founded on values of, among others, human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, nonracialism and nonsexism.

“South Africa conceived and initiated the idea of the regional seminar without pressure from any country, both inside and outside of the African continent,” says Kgwete.

Pepe Julien Onziema, programme director at Sexual Minorities Uganda, told the M&G telephonically that organisations on the continent understand that, in the current climate, there is a lot of pressure on South Africa in the UN Human Rights Council and in the African Union. South Africa also wants to play an important role in issues of trade and security on the continent, he said, but it needs to stick to its prior commitments.

“South Africa at this point needs to take a stand because it has for many years now had laws protecting sexual minorities and has led the process in the past,” he said.

Rights organisation Amsher, together with the Coalition for African Lesbians, said in a statement that, even if not all African states attend the planned seminar, it should go ahead: “The worsening hostility and increasing violence against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression demands accountability,” they said.

In April this year, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights – an organ of the African Union – passed a resolution on ending violence against Africans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, which was seen as a step in the right direction by human rights groups.






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13 June 2014

Johannesburg – South Africa

African civil society organisations have demanded that Honourable Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of   International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa, sets a date for the Regional Seminar on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression in Africa. This follows repeated communication with Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, to follow through on the commitment the Government of South Africa made to convene this Seminar at which African States, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organisations can dialogue on the issue of violence and discriminatory laws and practices targeting individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The continued delays in convening this seminar raises questions about South Africa’s commitment to leadership on ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We can no longer ignore this on-going crisis in South Africa and the rest of the continent. African states must begin a dialogue on ways to bring this modern expression of inhumanity to an end.” Ingrid Lynch of The Love, Not Hate Campaign said.

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution 17/19 on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity sponsored by South Africa and Brazil. The Resolution expressed ‘grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.’ It also mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission a study documenting discriminatory law and practices and violence committed against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and how international human rights law may be used to end violence and other related human rights violations. Following the publication of the Report of this study, regional dialogues have been held in other regions of the world, except Africa, to discuss the findings of the study and receive recommendations on follow up processes. Despite shaping this Regional process of consultation and later committing to host the Regional Seminar, the Government of South Africa has refused to follow through with this commitment.

According to Dawn Cavanagh, of the Coalition of African Lesbians, “South Africa’s seemingly deliberate delay in honouring its commitment to host the Regional Seminar means that ordinary Africans affected by this kind of violence and discrimination are denied the important opportunity to have their realities discussed and addressed by their States, who have the primary obligation of protecting its citizens from violence and human rights violations.”

“As the High Commissioner’s Report indicated, violence and human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity is occurring in all regions of the world. The Regional Seminars are an important step to forging an international response to this crisis which has real costs in human lives, including in Africa. South Africa’s failure to convene the African Regional Seminar is holding up a process that could potentially ensure a comprehensive, context-sensitive international response to ending violence and human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression”, says Kene Esom, of the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights.

In October 2013, the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) published the report Violence Based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa, which detailed types and cases of violence and other human rights targeting individuals based on the real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity across Africa.


For more information contact:

  1. African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR): 00 27 11 482 4630 or email Kene Esom at
  2. Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL): 00 27 11 403 0004/7 or email Fikile Vilakazi at
  3. Love Not Hate Campaign: 00 27 12 430 3272 or email Ingrid Lynch at

African Civil Society Organisations Commend the African Commission’s Resolution Condemning Violence and Other Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity




African civil society organisations and human rights defenders working to advance human and peoples’ rights in Africa welcome the adoption of a ‘Resolution on .’ The Resolution was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the most recent session held in Luanda, Angola, May 2014.

This landmark Resolution is the strongest document to date emerging from the African Union’s human rights body that recognises the need for the protection of the human rights of people who are non-conforming in terms of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Resolution acknowledges that violence and human rights violations against individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity breaches the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The resolution calls on “State parties to ensure that human rights defenders are able to work in an environment free from stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities.”  It further urges States to end impunity for acts of violence and abuse, by enacting appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their identities; by ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of the perpetrators; and by establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.

According to Dawn Cavanagh of the Coalition of African Lesbians, “This Resolution is important because by unequivocally condemning human rights violations and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and urging diligent prosecution of perpetrators and access to justice for victims, the African Commission has made it clear that these violations, which have become commonplace in many African countries, cannot and should not be tolerated. The African Commission, through this Resolution has reminded States of their human rights obligations to protect all people in Africa from human rights abuses and violence. It is, further, an important step towards the right to autonomy as African people, so that we are able to make decisions about our own bodies and lives”

The Resolution comes at a time when a number of countries are passing or considering legislation targeted at persons who are or perceived to be non-conforming in terms of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It comes also in the wake of unprecedented reports of heightened mob violence, murder, rape, assault, arbitrary arrests and detention. Last October, a report, Violence Based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa published by the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] and the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] was launched at the NGO Forum of the 54th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia. The report documents the incidents of violence perpetrated against those who are non-conforming in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression across the continent by both state and non-state actors, emphasising their entitlement to the same protection under the law as other people.

“The Commission in its mandate to promote and protect the human rights of all, has, by passing this resolution, heard the strong call of those who are subjected to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression across Africa” said Joel Gustave Nana, Executive Director of AMSHeR.  “They bear the brunt of prejudice and marginalisation, and are often unable to realise their rights as guaranteed by their national constitutions, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and international treaties”, he asserted.

African civil society organisations, activists and human rights defenders call on all African States to immediately take action to end this violence and wide-ranging human rights violations by aligning legislation, policies and institutional frameworks with the standards set, through this Resolution, by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We further urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the human rights body of the African Union to monitor and ensure States’ compliance with this resolution and the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

This press release is available in French here.

For further enquiries contact -

 1. Kene C. Esom,

+2711 242 6801,

2. Fadzai Muparutsa

+2711 403 0004,


Issued by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and Heartland Alliance’s Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights (HA-GISHR).


Civil Society Organisations Commend the African Commission’s Resolution Condemning Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity



A coalition of organisations and human rights defenders working to advance human and peoples’ rights welcomes the adoption of a Resolution on ‘Protection Against Violence and other Human Rights Violations Against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity‘ by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its 55th session held in Luanda, Angola, April 2014.

We recall the preamble to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights where member states took into consideration the virtues of Africa’s historical traditions and the values of African civilisation and stated that these should inspire and characterise the member states’ reflection on the concept of human and peoples’ rights. We believe that the resolution constitutes an affirmation and a clear demonstration of these values.

We applaud the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the premiere body mandated in the African Charter with the task of the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa, for its leadership and recognition of the entitlement to these rights by every African regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or any other status. In the African Charter, the Commission is entrusted with the responsibility to set human rights standards that all African Union member states should observe. The Commission does not exist to reflect the prejudices of member states, but exists to hold states accountable when they fail to observe the required human rights standards. This resolution comes at a time when a number of countries are adopting or considering legislation targeted at persons perceived to be or actually different and non-conforming in relation to gender, gender identity and expression and sexual orientation. It is thus extremely important that the Commission, in its appreciation of the evolving situation of human rights issues in the continent, chose to focus its attention on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

We celebrate the Resolution that decisively places all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression under the jurisdiction of the African Commission as mandated by the African Charter. Following similar initiatives in other regional and international systems of protection of human rights to address the global problem of homophobia and transphobia, the Resolution provides a legal basis for protection to all those who are suffering and living under the threat of violence because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. We see this resolution as an honour to the memories of all those who have lost their lives to violence because they were perceived to be different on these grounds. This Resolution is the first step towards affirming the equality and dignity of all African people who have been targeted and continue to be treated as second-class citizens because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

We call on all those committed to and working to achieve for all in Africa the right to autonomy over our bodies and lives and for dignity, non-discrimination and equality for all, to work together towards a continent that is free and safe from violence and to ensuring that the substance of the Resolution is implemented by all states parties to the African Charter.

We acknowledge the activists, human rights defenders, groups and institutions that have worked tirelessly and with commitment at the African Commission, as well as those who supported this work through various means over the past eight years (below the list of groups that between 2006 and 2014 have engaged at some point in the process). Our shared goal to ensure that the African Commission recognises that human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are justiciable under the African Charter is now being realised. Whilst there were numerous doubts and frustrations we remained steadfast in our belief and trust that the African Charter is a living document that confers human and peoples’ rights to all Africans regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The Commission has now confirmed this by passing this historical resolution.

National NGOS: Afrique Arc-en-Ciel, Togo, AIDS ACODEV; Aides Senegal; Alternatives-Cameroun; ARCAD SIDA, Mali; Arc en Ciel Plus; Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Concerned Women’s Initiative; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project [EHAHRDP]; Dignity Association; Freedom and Roam Uganda; Forum for the Empowerment of Women; Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya; Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum; Human Rights Institute of Southern Africa; HOCA; Icebreakers Uganda; Initiative for the Advancement of Humanity; International Centre for the Advancement of the Rights to Health; Lambda Mozambique; LeGaBiBo; Matrix (Swaziland); Mouvement pour les Libertés Individuelles (MOLI); My Rights; National gay and lesbian human rights commission; PEMA-KENYA; People Opposing Women Abuse; Queer African Youth Networking; Queer Alliance; Rainbow Candle Light; Rainbow Identity Association; Sexual Minorities Uganda; The Initiative for Equal Rights; SIPD; Stay Awake Network Activities; Spectrum Initiatives Uganda; Stop AIDS; Together for Women’s Rights; Women’s Health and Equal Rights; Young Women’s Initiative; Zanzibar Youth Empowerment Activities

Regional NGOs: African Men for Sexual Health and Rights; AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa; Coalition of African Lesbians; Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDO); Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa (REDHAC)

International NGOs: Amnesty International, Heartland Alliance (GISHR) Human Rights Watch; International Centre for the Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Global Rights

Please read this statement in  French here.

You can also read the Resolution in French here.


For further enquiries contact -

 1. Kene C. Esom,

+2711 242 6801,

 2. Fadzai Muparutsa

+2711 403 0004,


Issued by:

African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and Heartland Alliance’s Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights (GISHR)

Statement from the Coalition of African Lesbians on May 17: Gender non-conforming, trans-identifying and non-heteronormative Africans unite to bring Africa back.

courtesy of


This year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) finds us at a perilous time on our continent. This year in its infancy has seen the passing of two restrictive, intolerant and oppressive legislations that target the rights and freedoms of African women and men that don’t conform to heterosexist constructions of sexuality, gender and expression. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (2014) signed into law on January 7 in Nigeria, and the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act (2014) signed into law on 24 February have set a precedent for increased bigotry towards people with different sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. In these two countries alone, trans-identifying and queer individuals, as well as human rights defenders that advocate for the rights of all people, have borne the brunt of merciless attacks on their personhood, their safety and their property. States tasked with protecting and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable citizens have stood by and watched while women and men live in fear and have offered no recourse for lesbian, bisexual, trans, gay and intersex people who face danger daily.

State oppressions continue to spread, with many African countries threatening, and taking steps to introduce and stiffen not only homophobic and transphobic legislation, but also other rights and freedoms that state constitutions and international agreements guarantee. Civil society spaces for activism and expression are shrinking, with our governments limiting our freedoms to assemble, to protest, to run and operate Non-Governmental Organisations and censoring the media. Nine political bloggers who are part of the Zone 9 collective were arrested in Ethiopia in late April. The bloggers are accused of ‘working with foreign human rights activists’ and ‘using social media to destabilize the country’. If prosecuted under Ethiopia’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Law, they could face the death penalty. This is cause for alarm on the continent, where the media plays a big role in exposing government misdoings and gives citizens a voice to challenge the status quo.

There is a crisis of safety and security in the Central African Republic (CAR) which is embroiled in a civil war that has been raging on since December 2012. South Sudan also finds itself in an ethnic war that has seen over 1000 South Sudanese people, both military and civilian, killed since December 2013. For months now, women, children and men in these countries have known no peace or safety, as their governments and military uprisings fight for power and access to limited resources, amidst rising frustrations over poor governance, ethnic tensions, and failing economic structures that leave majority Africans poor and perpetually disadvantaged. Kenya has also seen a rise in militant acts of terrorism, with several bombs and grenades in crowded places being detonated around the country, and the rampant shooting of Kenyans gathered at public social spaces. This has led to a general state of unease, has increased xenophobia in the country and has encouraged the government to use extreme police force and increase police presence in the country. The Kenyan government, in its attempt to crack down on ‘terrorists’ is tightening people’s abilities to move and encouraging that all Kenyans ‘spy on’ and report each other of any suspected ‘terrorist acts’  in what they call the Nyumba Kumi (Ten House) initiative. In March 2014 Aden Duale, a member of parliament in Kenya likened homosexuality to an ill as bad as terrorism.

More recently is the abduction of almost 300 school girls from a school in Chiboke, Nigeria by Boko Haram militants. This gross human rights violation, while horrendous is nothing new to the continent. The political unrest and failed state security structures have led to an increase of human trafficking across the continent-with the highest figures coming from West Africa, and Nigeria in particular. Most of the people trafficked out of the continent and sold into sexual slavery are women and children. The impunity with which the Boko Haram militants declared their actions, the suspicious way in which the Nigerian government has handled the crisis, and America’s offer for military intervention, are indications that there are bigger, far more sinister issues underlying this mass abduction of girls. This violation also speaks directly to the issue of bodily autonomy and agency of citizens, which includes children. Inhabiting female bodies makes girl children vulnerable in patriarchal structures of governance that devalue female bodies, and use women and girls’ lives as weapons of war and political bargaining chips. The issue of bodily autonomy is one that the Coalition of African Lesbians has been advocating for and is shifting conversations in various spaces. The Coalition of African Lesbians is critically aware that this issue manifests in multiple ways and across all national, cultural, religious, sexuality and economic structures in Africa-and needs to be made a presently urgent issue for discussion with our governments.

We cannot honour this day without considering the various human rights issues that we face, as individual people or States-but also our collective struggles as a continent. We are a continent at war with ourselves, and the time to act, to raise our voices and to initiate change is now. Now more than ever, we need to give cognisance to the state of affairs in Africa, whether they directly speak to issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or not. These struggles are all our struggles, because we know that an injustice to one, is an injustice to all. While the global theme for this day is ‘Freedom of Expression’, we recognise that we cannot freely express ourselves as Africans, let alone as queer Africans. Deep change needs to happen on political, socio-cultural, religious and spiritual levels to allow us demand the right to express ourselves freely, in countries and communities that will honour this right and that will allow us to do this safely.

As we commemorate IDAHOT this year, we also need to celebrate the brave women and men that have stood in the face of injustice and not wavered. We salute the passion of human rights defenders, of communities, organisations and individuals that have shown solidarity with fellow Africans targeted for abuse and injury. We recognise the importance of considering the variety of issues that intersect and overlap with the targeted mistreatment of people of non-normative sexuality, gender identity and expression. We celebrate small victories, and pay homage to those that we have lost to the fight for justice and freedom for all African people. Although the continent is in a state of strife, we have seen tremendous acts of courage across the continent. From the activists in Uganda that filed a petition against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, to the protestors in Kenya that faced repeated police brutality while marching against State sanctioned economic reform that would leave the poor poorer and the rich richer. We continue to show resilience, resistance and courage in the face of increased oppression. This needs to be celebrated on this day.

On this day we also say, enough is enough, this is not the Africa we want, and we call for Africa to arise and unite and bring back Africa. The Coalition of African Lesbians stands behind the Mayibye iAfrica Statement, and calls for the return of Africa and a call for self-determination, an embracing of diversity and for justice. We encourage all our members, our allies, our friends and fellow civil society to sign onto the Mayibuye statement, and show unity of purpose and action in calling for change and the renaissance of Africa.

We wish all our members a day of peaceful remembrance and reflection, as well as a day of celebration and thanks-giving.

In strength and solidarity,

CAL Secretariat

17th May, 2014


CAL Sexuality and Gender Institute and Security and Wellbeing Workshop: 7-12 April, 2014

Sexuality and gender

In her opening remarks, Fikile Vilakazi said that as activists working on sexuality and gender issues of gender non-conforming and trans-identifying people, we need to understand our personal relationships to politics and to the movement.

She said this at the first day of the Southern Africa Sexuality and Gender Institute being held by the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] in Johannesburg, South Africa. From 7 to 12 April, activists from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana will be meeting to engage in critical discourses around sexuality and gender, power, privilege and patriarchy. The six day Institute, through a critical feminist analysis, aims to raise conscious awareness of how these issues affect the work that we do and the influence they have over the contexts in which we work. The ensuing Security and Wellbeing Workshop from 10 to 12 April will work with participants to develop organizational and individual plans around security and wellbeing. Issues of safety, security and wellbeing are increasingly becoming central to the work that sexuality and gender activists do, with more hostile contexts for our work appreaing across the continent.

The Sexuality and Gender Institute is a follow up activity included in the ‘More Than Campaign’ initiative which was developed by Southern Africa members and partners of the Coalition of African Lesbians in August 2013. CAL member organizations expressed the need for a stronger conceptual framework on sexuality and gender in order to develop a feminist analysis and to frame coherent arguments on social justice issues related to sexuality and gender.

CAL will document the issues arising from this Institute on our Blog-  as well as on social media on our   and on Twitter at @caladvocacy or Please follow us there to participate in arising conversations and discussions.

We anticipate that it will be a fruitful and engaing six days of unpacking, learning, unlearning and relearning how patriarchy, power and priviledge present and position themselves in our personal and public lives.

Press Release on the implications of the Anti-Homosexuality Act on the work of Human Rights Defenders in the Republic of Uganda


The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, received information that on 24 February 2014, “The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014” was promulgated in the Republic of Uganda.

The Special Rapporteur notes that some of the provisions of the Act, in particular Section 13, prohibit, on penalty of imprisonment, the promotion of homosexuality and provide that the certificate of registration of any association or international organization which violates the Act shall be cancelled.

Such a law is likely to endanger the life and safety of persons alleged to belong to sexual minorities, as well as human rights defenders working on this issue, since it undermines their activities and freedom of expression, association and assembly, all of which are rights guaranteed by the Ugandan Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in particular Articles 2, 9, 10 and 11.

The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned by the cases of intimidation and threats against some persons considered as Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered (LGBT) following the promulgation of the law. She further notes that some newspapers are already publishing the names and photographs of individuals considered as homosexuals, a situation which further increases the feeling of insecurity among the persons concerned.

The Special Rapporteur regrets the promulgation of the law whose consequences seriously undermine the work of human rights defenders and endanger the safety of sexual minorities who are already vulnerable as a result of social prejudice. She strongly condemns any interference in the privacy of these individuals as well as acts of violence and harassment they are subjected to.

The Special Rapporteur urges the Ugandan authorities to take the necessary measures to abrogate or amend the law.

She reminds the Ugandan Government of its international obligations, including those under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

She calls on the Ugandan Government to take the necessary steps for the effective protection of all persons against discrimination and violence, regardless of their sexual orientation, and to maintain an atmosphere of tolerance towards sexual minorities in the country.

The Special Rapporteur further calls on the Ugandan authorities to ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities, including the rights of sexual minorities.

By the same token, she encourages the Ugandan political authorities to continue dialogue on this sensitive issue of homosexuality in Africa.

The Special Rapporteur urges the Ugandan Government to spare no effort to ensure the security and physical integrity of all human rights defenders in Uganda.

Banjul, 10 March 2014

Our Right To Safety: Women Human Rights Defenders’ Holistic Approach to Protection

Our Right To Safety Report launched

WHRDs face a variety of risks and violations in their work. The WHRDIC is launching a new report: Our Right to Safety (PDF 1MB ) in an effort to assess the various mechanisms that have been developed to provide protection to WHRDs at risk, including initiatives developed by national governments, and regional and international human rights bodies.

  • Read the report Our Right To Safety: Women Human Rights Defenders’ Holistic Approach To Protection PDF Version (1MB).

When asked what protection and security meant to her, a women human rights defender explained: “I am a single mother and had to leave my home with my daughter and be relocated. I had to look for a job in my new place of residence and could not take care of my daughter, so I requested the state if they could cover these expenses as part of the relocation scheme. But the state did not understand that this should be part of the protection measures.”[1]

Another defender interviewed for the research also explained that when they were negotiating with the government to cover certain expenses related to education and health under the protection measure, the government responded that the goal of their protection measures was not to eradicate poverty.

These examples—as well as the many others that are included in the publication—help illustrate the complex situations WHRD’s face when they are threatened with violence because of their work. It is this complexity that this new publication seeks to address.

The variety of risks and violations that WHRDs face requires the adoption of differential support programs and gender-specific protection measures, taking into account the contexts in which women defenders live and work as well as other conditions and identities present in the diversity of WHRDs. AWID, in collaboration with members of the WHRDs IC, has developed this publication in an effort to assess the various mechanisms that have been developed to provide protection to WHRDs at risk, including initiatives developed by national governments, and regional and international human rights bodies.

While these initiatives are encouraging, WHRDs have expressed concerns about the inadequacy of many measures to address all their needs. In our conversations with WHRDs, a number of compelling questions emerged:

Do protection schemes take into account the unequal economic conditions that WHRDs face in most societies and how this increases their vulnerability and their ability to confront risk? Do they take into account the responsibility that many WHRDs have as the primary or sole caregiver in their families? Do protection measures move beyond physical protection and provide psychosocial support and access to other necessary health services?

These are some of the questions that we have explored in this publication, and which have helped us develop a more profound understanding of the meaning of gender-sensitive protection measures and the unique security concerns confronting WHRDs.

  • Read the report Our Right To Safety: Women Human Rights Defenders’ Holistic Approach To Protection PDF Version (1MB).

In responding to these questions, WHRDs have emphasized the need to advance an integrated concept of security that takes into account the historical, cultural, political and social contexts in which they live. That is—a concept of protection that takes into account how WHRDs experience human rights violations differently because of their gender and other economic, social, and cultural factors.

[1] Interview with Valentina Rosendo Cantú and Centro de Tlachinollan, Mexico.

The Coalition of African Lesbians is a member of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

Legality of Anti Homosexuality Act challenged in Constitutional Court by an unprecedented coalition of petitioners; Injunction against enforcement sought

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

(KAMPALA) Prof. J Oloka-Onyango, Hon. Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, Andrew Mwenda, Prof. Morris Ogenga-Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Semugoma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, Frank Mugisha, as well as the national organisations Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) today filed a Constitutional Court challenge of the Anti Homosexuality Act, which was signed into law by President Museveni on February 24, 2014. The petition was filed under the auspices of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition of 50 indigenous civil society organisations that advocates for non-discrimination in Uganda. The petition, available at and at, argues that the Anti Homosexuality Act violates Ugandan’s Constitutionally guaranteed right to: privacy, to be free from discrimination, dignity, to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association; to the presumption of innocence, and to the right to civic participation.

“This Act not only represents an effort by the Executive and Parliament to scapegoat an unpopular minority for political gain,” said Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and the third Petitioner named in the case, “but we believe it also violates the highest law of our country. We are calling or Constitutional Court to pronounce itself urgently on the legality of this Act, and to issue an injunction against enforcement as the case proceeds.”

“I authored a minority report on the Anti Homosexuality Bill before it was passed in Parliament, without quorum, precisely because I believe it to be harmful, redundant, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the Constitution,” said Hon. Fox Odoi, a member of Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and the second Petitioner named in the case. “This Act does a disservice to our people and to the laws of this country,” said Julian Pepe Onziema, of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the seventh Petitioner named in the case. “The President should repeal this Act, but our Judiciary also needs to take urgent action in hearing this case, and ensuring injunctive relief in the interim period.”

Since the signing of the Act, there have been a number of cases of violence and retaliation against people known or suspected to be gay, ranging from perfunctory evictions by many landlords of tenants, to the threat of violence by community members once the law is gazetted—a step which has not yet occurred:

“We have documented ten cases of arrests of LGBTI and suspected LGBTI persons since the law was passed by Parliament and more than three cases of evictions of tenants by landlords without following due process of the law,” according toAdrian Jjuuko of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), the ninth petitioner.

The Petitioners have also asked for a permanent injunction against media houses or any other organisations from publishing pictures, names, addresses or other details of LGBTI or suspected LGBTI persons, since such publications constitute a violation of the right to dignity, and an invasion of the right to privacy of the person. Since the signing of the Bill into law, The Red Pepper and Hello tabloids have published the pictures and names on an almost daily basis of Ugandans they are accusing of being gay. “We are hopeful that High Court will immediately prevent these publications from continuing to violate the rights of Ugandans to privacy—they have done extensive damage already. This is not legitimate speech—it is motivated purely by hate and by a drive to reap commercial gain,” said Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera of Freedom and Roam Uganda and the sixth petitioner.

“We believe in equality and non discrimination for all, and all the other rights that are clearly protected in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and in international human rights instruments. This is why we support the petition,” stated Clare Byarugaba, Co Coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

For more information, contact:

Adrian Jjuuko, +256 782 169 505,

Clare Byarugaba, +256 774 608 663,

Geoffrey Ogwaro, +256 782 176 069,

African groups call for the African Union to urgently respond to gender and sexuality rights violations in Africa, and particularly to anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria

For immediate release – March 6, 2014

As African civil society organisations whose members live and work to improve the lives of all Africans, we condemn in the strongest terms, the disturbing increase in sexuality and gender-related rights violations and abuses, especially those aimed at women and gender non-conforming people, and people in same sex relations including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identifying African people.

Specifically, we condemn the signing of the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, both of which were passed into law this year by Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, respectively. We also strongly condemn the Anti-Pornography Law, which was passed in Uganda last year.

In defence of African people whom these laws target, we seek recourse through the African Union (AU) and its organs.

We also call on the AU Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to make a public statement condemning both the Nigerian and Ugandan laws, and providing African citizens with a roadmap for how the AU Commission plans to address laws that violate gender and sexuality-related rights amongst member states.

Extreme Violations

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalises homosexuality—defining it as “same sex or gender sexual acts”—with punishment ranging from seven years to life imprisonment. Those who are found guilty of “aiding and abetting homosexuality” also face up to seven years in prison. Uganda’s Anti-Pornography Act places limitations on ‘appropriate’ dress code for women, specifically banning miniskirts and any other clothing deemed to “cause sexual excitement”.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act goes further than its stated purpose by criminalizing the registration of ‘gay clubs, societies and organisations and banning the public show of a same sex ‘amorous’ relationship either directly or indirectly, carrying a ten year prison sentence for such acts.

These laws have already forced people from their schools, work and homes out of fear and due to their safety being threatened. The levels of violence, threats, and abusive and hate speech have escalated dramatically as homophobic laws have been put in place. We note with alarm that in both Uganda and Nigeria,  the passage of these laws have been accompanied by acts of murder, rape, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention and other forms of persecution of persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation and gender identity. The climate of fear and hate was further escalated in Uganda by the publication of a list of “200 Top Homosexuals” in Red Pepper Newspaper, with the headline “Exposed”, immediately following President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. This constitutes a gross violation of media ethics and of human rights, both of which, we argue, are punishable under Ugandan law.

States have an obligation to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of gender or sexuality. States have a responsibility to protect the rights of all who live in their borders. States should not be creating the conditions in which violence by non-state actors are justified or encouraged. Nor should the state set itself up as a threat to its own citizens and block them from living with basic levels of freedom as both Uganda and Nigeria have done.

We reject arguments made by the heads of state of both Uganda and Nigeria, that consensual same-sex relations are “unAfrican”, and we condemn in the strongest terms the comments of political, religious and cultural leaders who have used similar rhetoric to incite hatred against persons perceived to be homosexual.

We celebrate and echo the strong voices of African leaders who have rejected these claims and who continue to condemn discrimination, violence and human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. We align ourselves with all Africans who have spoken out in the face of these unjust laws and who have continued to call for respect for diversity and for all Africans to embrace the African idea of Ubuntu –our shared humanity.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated in respect of the Nigerian law, “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.” Former President of Mozambique, Joaqium Chissano, in an open letter to African leaders said, “I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms…This simply means granting every one the freedom and the means to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one’s life – one’s sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children – without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.”

Given its mandate as the human rights organ of the African Union, we call upon the African Union Commission, as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to condemn all homophobic and anti-gay laws that have either been passed, or are being proposed, throughout Africa, and further respond urgently to the increasingly violent acts that precede and follow these laws.

– Statement by African civil society organisations listed below.


Lucinda van den Heever, Sonke Gender Justice : (+27) 72 994 3138

Kene Esom, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights : (+27) 11 242 6801

Sheena Magenya, Coalition of African Lesbians : (+27) 11 403 0004/7

List of signing organisations:

African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER)

Africa Regional Civil Society Platform on Health

AIDS Accountability International

Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)

Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA)

Gay and Lesbian Network (Pietermaritzburg)

Gender DynamiX

HOPEM (Men For Change) Mozambique

Signing organisations (continued):

International HIV/AIDS Alliance

MenEngage Namibia

MenEngage Zimbabwe

MenEngage Zambia

MenEngage Kenya

Out in Africa

SANAC Women’s Sector

Sonke Gender Justice

South African Council of Churches Youth Forum

Triangle Project

World AIDS Campaign

Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights


Background for Editors

Provision of the laws

While there are close to 40 African countries that criminalise consensual sexual conducts between persons of the same sex, the new laws enacted by Nigeria and Uganda goes further by criminalising peoples’ sexual orientation and identities regardless of sexual conduct. They also include such egregious provisions.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act [A1] includes:

  • a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union,
  • a ten-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony.
  • The law states that ‘a person or group of persons who … supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act: [A2]

  • introduces a series of crimes      listed as “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while      HIV positive;
  • criminalises lesbianism for the      first time;
  • makes it a crime to help      individuals engage in homosexual acts;
  • makes homosexual acts      punishable with life in prison.