African Commission Backs LGBT Rights

Published: May 22, 2014

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.”

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.”

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