Criminalisation of homosexuality in Africa: the hypocrisy of French-speaking African states. Underlying the contradiction between countries' acceptance of funding dedicated to HIV prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) while simultaneously

Published: July 22, 2010

Criminalisation of homosexuality in Africa: the hypocrisy of French-speaking African states. Underlying the contradiction between countries’ acceptance of funding dedicated to HIV prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) while simultaneously criminalizing this targeted group

A. Legrand1, R. Elliott2, Y. Yomb3, M. Bourrelly1, N. Lorente1, A. Nkom4

1AIDES, Pantin, France, 2Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Toronto, Canada, 3AIDES, Douala, Cameroon, 4Lawyer, Douala, Cameroon

Issues: Today, French-speaking African states can be distinguished by their legal status of homosexuality: those without criminalisation, those with old criminalisation laws, and those with recent criminalisation laws. Despite this distinction, majority recognize the right to health for men who have sex with men (MSM) and accept the need to develop specific actions regarding MSM as part of their response to HIV/AIDS within their borders. These national actions often recognize the need to fight against discrimination against MSM.
Description: Partners organisation collaborated to produce an analysis of the paradoxical treatment of homosexuality in French-speaking African States. Using testimonials from both MSM and activists working in different French-speaking African countries, the analysis describes the lives of MSM in a society where they face both the threat of criminal charges for their sexual orientation and the benefits of specific HIV prevention efforts. Between November 2009 and January 2010, a dozen of interviews were conducted among MSM and activists from Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire.
Lessons learned: Through testimonials, criminal law review and identification of public health actions towards MSM in four African countries, the analysis demonstrates the inconsistency of public strategies towards MSM where homosexuality is criminalised. Such inconsistency undermines HIV prevention efforts and jeopardizes MSMs’ human rights. This analysis, reflected by concerned individuals’ testimonies, calls for the development of an advocacy strategy to put an end to the criminalisation of homosexuality.
Next steps: The tools and possibilities for advocacy resulting from this work will be the subject of an article jointly completed by local actors, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and AIDES (the largest HIV/AIDS NGO in France). It will be published in June 2010 and will strengthen the advocacy of local and international actors against criminalization of homosexuality.

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