LGBT rights in Africa

With the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are limited in comparison to Western Europe and much of the Americas and Oceania.

Out of the 54 states recognised by the United Nations or African Union or both, the International Gay and Lesbian Association stated in 2015 that homosexuality is outlawed in 34 African countries. Human Rights Watch notes that another two countries, Benin and the Central African Republic, do not outlaw homosexuality, but have certain laws which apply differently to heterosexual and homosexual individuals.

Homosexuality has never been criminalised in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, and Rwanda. It has been decriminalised in Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Seychelles and South Africa.

Since 2011, some developed countries have been considering or implementing laws that limit or prohibit general budget support to countries that restrict the rights of LGBT people. In spite of this, many African countries have refused to consider increasing LGBT rights, and in some cases have drafted laws to increase sanctions against LGBT people. Many African leaders claim that it was brought into the continent from other parts of the world. Nevertheless, most scholarship and research demonstrates that homosexuality has long been a part of various African cultures.

In Somalia, Somaliland, Mauritania and northern Nigeria, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone, offenders can receive life imprisonment for homosexual acts, although the law is not enforced in Sierra Leone. In addition to criminalizing homosexuality, Nigeria has enacted legislation that would make it illegal for heterosexual family members, allies and friends of LGBT people to be supportive. According to Nigerian law, a heterosexual ally "who administers, witnesses, abets or aids" any form of gender non-conforming and homosexual activity could receive a 10-year jail sentence. South Africa has the most liberal attitudes toward gays and lesbians, with the country legalized same-sex marriage and its Constitution guarantees gay and lesbian rights and protections. However, violence and social discrimination against South African LGBT people is still widespread, fueled by a number of religious and political figures. The Spanish, Portuguese, British and French territories legalised same-sex marriages.

Gay and lesbian travellers to Africa should use discretion. Public displays of affection should generally be avoided, an advice which applies to both homosexual and heterosexual couples. The most gay-friendly African country is usually considered to be South Africa, with regards to the legal status of LGBT rights, though Cape Verde, has also been often regarded as the most socially accepting, as described in the documentary Tchindas.


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