LGBTQ life in Africa: Arrests, arrests, arrests, arrests

The staggering pace of arrests of LGBTQ citizens continued today, as Uganda Police raided an LGBTQ shelter and detained 44 members of the LGBTQ community, repeating a familiar pattern of human rights violations in Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria as well as Uganda.

LGBT residents of the Cosf homeless shelter in Uganda were paraded before the media after their arrest in March 2020. (Uganda Police Force photo)

Only last year, Uganda police arrested 20 homeless members of the LGBTQ community at an LGBTQ shelter. The shelter residents were held for 50 days without a chance to apply for bail before charges were dropped. They then sued two Uganda officials, accusing them of torture. Each of the detainees was awarded cash damages of 5 million Ugandan shillings (about US $1,341) as compensation for their mistreatment.

The latest Ugandan raid came 11 days after Ghana police  arrested 21 people during a raid on a training session on  documenting violations of the human rights of LGBTQ Ghanaians. The arrestees remained in custody awaiting a court hearing since that May 20 raid.

Also in Ghana, police in March arrested 14 LGBTQ people at an event what they mistaken thought was a “lesbian wedding”. The arrestees were released after police realized the event was actually a birthday party.

In February of this year, police in eastern Cameroon arrested 12 boys for suspected homosexuality after some of them were seen kissing near a popular restaurant. After parents and LGBTQ rights activists intervened, they were promptly released.

In Cameroon, Internet trans celebrity Shakiro was sentenced to five years in prison for “attempted homosexuality” and related offenses. (Photo courtesy of Pan-Africa ILGA)

Later in February, police in Cameroon arrested two trans women — Internet trans celebrity Shakiro and her partner, Patricia — on the streets of the nation’s largest city, Douala. They were sentenced to five years in prison after being tried on charges of attempted homosexual conduct, public indecency, and identity-card irregularities.

The next month, police in western Cameroon arrested 13 people on homosexuality charges in connection with an anti-AIDS training session. After police were contacted by human rights advocates, all but two of the arrestees were released the next day.

In Senegal, at least 37 people have been arrested on homosexuality charges since September 2020. The bulk of arrests are by members of religious militia.

Members of the LGBTQ community in Nigeria remain the targets of police repression, including the arrest of 57 people in an anti-gay raid in 2018. Charges against those 57 arrestees were dropped only years later, when the prosecution failed to produce reliable witnesses.

Currently, the Erasing 76 Crimes news site is raising funds to pay for the early release of 11 LGBT Cameroonians who are serving prison sentences after their arrests on homosexuality charges at various times from May 2019 through October 2020.

Sketch of two imprisoned victims of homophobia in Cameroon. CLICK IMAGE TO DONATE to pay their fines and set them free early. (Illustration by Vincent Kyabayinze, East Africa Visual Artists, EAVA Artists)

 

 

 

 

 

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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  1. Campaign for the prevention of murders and assaults against LGBT refugees inside UNHCR camps
    This has been happening for years and more and more since the coronavirus epidemic. The UN is not protecting them, they are not even investigating it. They leave it to the Kenyan police whose orders is to imprison LGBT people because of their sexual orientation. There are eight countries in which homosexuality can result in a death penalty, and dozens more in which homosexual acts can result in a prison sentence (ILGA). While LGBT+ refugees have been the victims of openly homophobic attacks resulting in constant threats, assaults, and murders in the sole UNHCR camp welcoming LGBT refugees in the region; namely the Kenyan camp of Kakuma in which Ugandan refugees fleeing ‘the 2014 kill the gay legislations’ are received in a country where deceiving police and personals apply not the spirit of the UN law of equal rights but the ones of the hosting country, i.e. sentencing LGBT people with up to 15 years in prison.
    The UN is itself highly complicit since numerous and repeated attacks (by other refugees [living in the camp and identified as terrorists in some cases] and locals) and the murder with a petrol bomb of one of the activists last month never ever resulted by the UN personals intervention- not even as much as paying a visit to the LGBT refugees in block 13 to start investigating or acting.

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