Young queer Africans take a stand

Logo of the African Queer Youth Initiative
Logo of the African Queer Youth Initiative

Young Africans who are passionate about the sexual health, rights and well-being of LGBTQI youth have banded together to work for change through a new organization called the African Queer Youth Initiative.

AQYI originated with a group of young LGBTQI activists in June 2015.  Their view was:

“Despite being active in the larger LGBTQI movement, and despite the existence of platforms, support systems, opportunities and programs geared towards moving LGBTQI equality, the needs and aspirations of young people were often left off the table and young people were not seen as equal partners in our common struggle towards an Africa where citizens would be free from oppression and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. ”

The AQYI team currently consists of a volunteer network of youth from Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Republic of Mauritius, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

AQYI recently issued this statement:

The violation of the rights of LGBT persons across the African continent is slowly becoming a general occurrence. From Egypt were a private party was raided to Nigeria were over 40 men were arrested for engaging in “homosexual acts” and also adding the arrest in Tanzania. These human rights violations have become very regular and the homophobia in various regions is waxing strong.

For this reason, there is a need to change the status quo. It is important that for change to occur, people with a passion for justice and change step up to the plate and try to campaign for change from the grassroots to the major cities. There is a need for activists from across the continent, to come together and use their resources to fight for the change they desire. That is why the African Queer Youth Initiative was established.

Making plans for the African Queer Youth Initiative. (Photo courtesy of AQYI)
Making plans for the African Queer Youth Initiative. (Photo courtesy of AQYI)

Created by a group of young LGBTQI activists at the 5th edition of the Changing Faces and Changing Spaces Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, the Initiative is set out to give a platform to young persons on the continent who feel the need to be a part of the larger LGBTQI movement. With members from across the continent, the aim is not only to give a voice to these young people but to also help with advocacy in their communities and empower their leadership and professional skills through research, tasks, teamwork, and capacity building.

AQYI’s contribution and work for the African LGBTQ community is important due to the dangers and discrimination against the African Queer community being increasingly stifling and rising in danger and require urgent attention and intervention. From laws that endanger the safety of members of the community to access to health care for community members, the role of AQYI cannot be overemphasized as a means of pulling resources together to help overcome some of these challenges.

In the case of Egypt, the Human Rights Watch is reporting that more than 85 persons have been caught up in a massive crackdown on LGBT people since several young people waved a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert in September. This only brings to the forefront the need for active campaigns and mobilizations of young people across the continent to speak out on these issues. Other countries from North Africa also reported numerous cases of imprisonment, social violence, and defamation of professional LGBTQ people, especially journalists and people working in sensitive fields.

Considering the infinite amount of problems facing the queer community in Africa, The AQYI is present for the purpose of tackling these issues and violations of LGBTQ rights and to bring about a positive change.

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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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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