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Human Rights Commission Reasserts Rights of LGBT Africans

Written By: Suzanne Ito
May 23, 2014

 

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the human rights body of the African Union that oversees the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, wrapped its biannual meeting in Angola earlier this month with a resolution reaffirming the human rights of all Africans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and explicitly condemning acts of discrimination and violence against LGBT individuals.

The African Commission expressed its alarm that “acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations continue to be committed on individuals in many parts of Africa because of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity” and “Strongly urges States to end all acts of violence and abuse.” The Commission also urged African Union member states to enact laws that prohibit and punish all forms of violence that target individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Civil society groups and human rights defenders welcomed the resolution with a statement of their own, noting the timeliness of its declaration. (While neither the advocates nor the African Commission single out any countries, it’s clear the recently passed laws in Nigeria and Uganda were on their minds.) The civil society groups also took notice of the Commission’s condemnation of violence and human rights abuses by “State and non-State actors,” and notes those persecuted under anti-LGBT laws have legal recourse through the Commission:

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.

[…]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.

Fifty-three African states—including Nigeria and Uganda—have ratified the Charter; this includes all of the African Union except South Sudan.  It’s now time for governments and civil society to work together to make this vision of an Africa free of discrimination a reality.

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