Being queer in Africa: the state of LGBTIQ+ rights across the continent

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05/28/2023

In recent years several African countries have decriminalised same-sex relationships. But they’re not representative of the continent. In fact, queer rights at times appear to be eroding in much of the continent, with Kenya and Uganda most recently in the news for harsh laws and violence against members of the LGBTIQ+ community. We asked sociologist and queer studies scholar Zethu Matebeni five questions. How would you describe the state of LGBTIQ+ rights? The state of LGBTIQ+ rights on the continent could be described as being on a continuum of seven possible stages, as suggested by US legal scholar Adam Kretz. These move from total marginalisation to cultural integration. The position in the continuum is determined by a country’s laws and its political, social and cultural conditions. There are countries – such as Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan, and Somalia – that impose bans, lengthy jail terms, ostracism, or a death penalty on anyone displaying same-sex affection and lesbian, gay or transgender identity or existence. Most countries – such as Algeria, The Gambia, Malawi, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – remain in the second stage of the continuum, maintaining criminalisation of LGBTIQ+ persons.

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