Factbox: Legal hurdles faced by LGBT+ people in Africa

Wednesday March 22 2023
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill

Uganda's Speaker Anita Annet Among (left) leads the session during the proposal of the Anti-Homosexuality bill on March 9, 2023. PHOTO | FILE | ABUBAKER LUBOWA | REUTERS



Uganda's parliament passed a bill on Tuesday making it a crime to identify as LGBTQ, handing authorities broad powers to target gay Ugandans who already face legal discrimination and mob violence.

Same-sex relations are legal in only 22 of Africa's 54 countries, and are punishable by death or lengthy prison terms in some, according to a global review 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, which was last updated in December 2020.

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

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


- An Islamic sharia court in Nigeria's northern state of Bauchi sentenced three men to death by stoning in July last year after convicting them on charges of engaging in homosexuality.


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

- The High Court of Kenya in 2019 upheld a law criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity, saying it was "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".

- A draft bill that sought to toughen already severe laws against same-sex relations in Senegal was thrown out before being put to a vote because existing legislation was deemed sufficiently clear and the resultant penalties severe enough.

Discrimination rife

- 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.

Protection against discrimination

- 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 2019, and in November 2021 the court of appeal upheld the ruling.

- Gabon's Senate voted in June 2020 to decriminalise homosexuality.