Legal hurdles faced by LGBT+ people in Africa

Same-sex relations are legal in only 22 of Africa's 54 countries and are punishable by death or lengthy prison terms in some nations, according to a global review here by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Africa accounts for nearly half of the countries worldwide where homosexuality is outlawed, according to the review, published in March and updated in December here last year.

A judge in Nigeria on Tuesday threw out a case against 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex, ending what had widely been seen as a test of the country’s laws banning homosexual relationships.

Here is the state of play on LGBT+ rights in Africa:

- The maximum penalty is death in four African countries: Mauritania, Nigeria (in states where sharia law is applied), Somalia and South Sudan.

- Life imprisonment is the maximum penalty in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, while jail terms of up to 14 years are possible in Gambia, Kenya and Malawi.

- The High Court of Kenya last year upheld the law criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity, adding it is “an effective method to contain the country’s HIV epidemic”.

- In 2017, Chad criminalised same-sex acts in what the ILGA review called “a worrying example of legal regression in the region”.

- Although homosexuality is not a crime in Egypt, discrimination against the LGBT+ community is rife. Gay men are frequently arrested and typically charged with debauchery, immorality or blasphemy.

- Ivory Coast does not criminalise gay sex but there have been recorded cases of detention and prosecution.

- Tanzania has banned provision of condoms and lubricants to LGBT+ health clinics and, since 2018, increased the use of forced anal examinations.

- Convictions on the grounds of sodomy in Tunisia have reportedly been on the rise.

- In Kenya, lesbian, bisexual and queer women have experienced violence and marginalisation not only from general society but also from within the wider LGBT+ community.

- Broad protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation exists in three countries: Angola, Mauritius and South Africa. Employment protection exists in the same three countries plus Botswana, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Seychelles.

- South Africa is the only African country where gay marriage is legal and where the constitution protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In March 2018, the cabinet approved a bill criminalising hate crimes and hate speech. However, South Africa has high rates of rape and homophobic crime.

- Botswana decriminalised homosexuality in June last year, although the ruling is subject to appeal.

- Gabon’s Senate voted in June to decriminalise homosexuality.

Source: The ILGA’s ‘State-Sponsored Homophobia’ review (13th edition) and the State-Sponsored Homophobia: Global Legislation Overview Update reports.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alexandra Hudson