LGBT law update: Sub-Saharan Africa

by on September 25, 2012  •  In Criminal law, International, Marriage
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Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa offered wonderful words of support in July for the world’s LGBT communities. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, however, much more support is sorely needed. Here is a brief survey of recent developments in the region.

Ghana. As part of its mandate to provide comprehensive recommendations to improve the country’s 1992 constitution, the Constitutional Review Commission has urged the Supreme Court to rule on the “legality or otherwise of homosexuality” if such a case is brought before it. The government accepted this recommendation (see Subtheme Four, Issue Two of the document), creating a clear directive for the court. We are not aware of any currently pending cases, but we will be following developments there. 

Liberia. The Liberian Senate voted unanimously on July 20th to ban same-sex marriage. (Interestingly, and perhaps ominously, the bill’s sponsor was Ms. Jewell Taylor, ex-wife of the recently-prosecuted mass murderer and former Liberian president, Charles Taylor.) An even worse bill is currently under consideration in the country’s House of Representatives; it would make sex between same-sex individuals a first-degree felony. Liberia’s current president has said she will veto any LGBT-related legislation brought before her, whether easing or tightening restrictions, due to the current social turmoil surrounding these issues. The government has also promised to “swiftly arrest and prosecute anyone who threatens ‘to go after’ gays and their supporters.” 

Uganda. LGBT advocates have endured sustained government persecution this year, including multiple raids, interference with a human rights conference, and arrests of peaceful demonstrators and participants in the country’s first pride parade, all leading to an outright ban on at least 38 LGBT rights organizations that the government says are “recruiting children into homosexuality” while “pretending to work in human rights.” Thankfully, the bill that would make same-sex relations a capital offense is currently stalled in committee at the Ugandan parliament–probably because of pressure from the US and other Western countries–but the country’s anti-gay climate has reached a frightening fever pitch.  

Zimbabwe. President Mugabe has long been vocal about his dislike of gay people. August brought escalating government harassment of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). During a demonstration marking the group’s release of this human rights report, police arrested and held 44 GALZ members without charge. Shortly thereafter police seized GALZ’s computer and publications, then charged the group’s chairperson with running an “unregistered organization.” 

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