U.S.: Relatively few public LGBT abuses in central Africa

Central and west Africa, including Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo,  and the Republic of the Congo.
Central and west Africa, including (at right) Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of the Congo. (Map courtesy of Unicef)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in central Africa have a chance to live their lives relatively free of obvious public repression, at least compared to LGBT people in more publicly homophobic African nations, according to the accounts recently released in human rights reports from the U.S. Department of State.

That even applies to central African countries where same-sex activity is a criminal offense.

According to the reports that apply to central African nations, LGBT people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffered most from police harassment, but even there the government reportedly is working to reduce anti-gay stigma and improve health care for men who have sex with men.

These are excerpts from the reports about the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of the Congo:

Central African Republic

The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity. The penalty for  “public expression of love” between persons of the same sex is imprisonment for  six months to two years or a fine of between 150,000 and 600,000 CFA francs  ($300 and $1,200). When one of the participants is a child, the adult may be  sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 to 800,000  CFA francs ($200 and $1,600); however, there were no reports that police  arrested or detained persons under these provisions.

While there is official discrimination based on sexual orientation, there were no  reports of the government targeting gays and lesbians. However, societal  discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was  entrenched, and many citizens attributed the existence of homosexuality to  undue Western influence. There were no known organizations advocating or  working on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons.

Chad

Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons:
Although the constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on origin, race,  gender, religion, political opinion, or social status, the government did not  effectively enforce these provisions. The law does not address discrimination  based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual  Orientation and Gender Identity:
The law prohibits but does not define “unnatural acts,” and there was no evidence  that the law was used against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)  persons during the year. No specific laws apply to LGBT persons. There were few  reports of violence or discrimination against LGBT persons, in large part because  most individuals were discreet about their sexual orientation due to social and  cultural strictures against homosexuality. There were no LGBT organizations in  the country.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

While there are no laws specifically prohibiting homosexuality or homosexual acts, individuals engaging in public displays of homosexuality were subject to prosecution under public decency provisions in the penal code and articles in the law on sexual violence. Homosexuality remained a cultural taboo, and harassment by SSF [state security forces] was believed to have continued. The Ministry of Health actively worked with LGBT groups in a nondiscriminatory fashion to reduce the stigma and prevent new HIV infections among men who have sex with men.

Republic of the Congo

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on, sexual orientation. There was a small openly gay or lesbian community due to the social stigma associated with consensual same-sex sexual conduct. A law promulgated during the colonial era and still in force prohibits homosexual conduct and makes it punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment; however, the law was rarely enforced. The most recent arrest under this law was in 1996.

There were no known cases of violence against gays, lesbians, or transgender individuals during the year. Although homosexual activity is generally stigmatized by society, overt intimidation was not believed to be a factor in preventing reports of incidents of abuse.

There was no known advocacy group or organization representing the interests of gays, lesbians, or transgender individuals in the country, and homosexuality remained a private subject.

The full reports on human rights in those countries are available on the department’s website and at  www.humanrights.gov. The sections those reports that are devoted to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity were compiled in PDF format by the Council For Global Equality.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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