African Commission backs LGBT rights

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)
Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recently adopted  a ground-breaking resolution against violence and other human rights violations committed against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

BuzzFeed reported:

“It is a big deal,” said Monica Tabengwa, a longtime lesbian activist from Botswana who now works for Human Rights Watch in Nairobi. The resolution lacks any enforcement mechanism, but in a context where many African leaders are sanctioning anti-LGBTI violence while arguing that LGBTI rights are an invention of the U.S. and Europe, it sends a critical message.
“There has never been anything like this before. It will be very symbolic,” Tabengwa said. “It’s a homegrown resolution saying [LGBTI people] are human beings … it’s about [protecting] people’s lives.”

Monica Tabengwa (Photo courtesy of HRW)
Monica Tabengwa (Photo courtesy of HRW)

The resolution now goes before the full African Union, which includes almost every country on the continent, and the AU has the option of rejecting the resolution, Tabengwa said. Resolutions are usually only rejected on procedural grounds, but contentious nature of this resolution makes it hard to predict what will happen.

The resolution, adopted during the commission’s April 28-May 12 meeting in Angola, comes at a time of intensified repression of LGBT people and LGBT rights activists in many African countries.  The resolution calls for governments to create an “environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of [advocates’] human rights protection activities, including the rights of sexual minorities.”

Owing to its importance for all African nations, the resolution’s full text is printed here:

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), meeting at its 55th Ordinary Session held in Luanda, Angola, from 28 April to 12 May 2014:

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

Map of African, with African Union member states in dark green and states with suspended membership in light green (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Map of African, with African Union member states in dark green and states with suspended membership in light green (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recalling that Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) prohibits discrimination of the individual on the basis of distinctions of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status;
Further recalling that Article 3 of the African Charter entitles every individual to equal protection of the law;
Noting that Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter entitle every individual to respect of their life and the integrity of their person, and prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment;
Alarmed 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;
Noting that such violence includes ‘corrective’ rape, physical assaults, torture, murder, arbitrary arrests, detentions, extra-judicial killings and executions, forced disappearances, extortion and blackmail;
Further alarmed at the incidence of violence and human rights violations and abuses by State and non-State actors targeting human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on issues of sexual orientation or gender identity in Africa;
Deeply disturbed by the failure of law enforcement agencies to diligently investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violence and other human rights violations targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;

  1. Condemns the increasing incidence of violence and other human rights violations, including murder, rape, assault, arbitrary imprisonment and other forms of persecution of persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;
  2. Specifically condemns the situation of systematic attacks by State and non-state actors against persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;
  3. Calls on State Parties 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; and
  4.  Strongly urges States to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by State or non-state actors, including by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.

Adopted at the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Luanda, Angola, 28 April to 12 May 2014

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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