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.
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