LGBT+

LGBT+ people in Africa are suffering wide ranging prejudice and discrimination, ‘out’ LGBT+ people are at risk of violence and death.

But through our accompaniment work with these individuals, our linking organisations and our policy and advocacy measures we hope to see further change sweep across the continent and further afield.

LGBT+ context

In the almost three decades since homosexuality was removed from the list of mental health disorders by the World Health Assembly, there has been substantial progress in North America, Western Europe and more recently in Latin America towards greater public acceptance and legal protection for LGBT+. Aside from South Africa, this progress has not been mirrored in the countries of Africa. Arguably the situation for LGBT+ in many African countries has worsened – widespread stigma and discrimination exists, lack of access to health services, violence, discrimination and a media hostile to LGBT+ issues and rights. Often driven by politicians and faith based leaders, there has been a push in some countries to enact harsher laws and policies discriminating against LGBT+. LGBT+ advocacy and visibility has prompted widespread push back in all spheres, particularly from the media. Public attitudes have been slow to change and according to the PEW Global Attitudes Project, all countries in Africa, aside from SA, have the levels acceptance of homosexuality at less than 10% in the general population.

Rooted mainly in colonial-era laws and politics, negative cultural and family values and attitudes and strong patriarchal systems, most countries have either legislation or policies that discriminate against LGBT+. While there are country and regional differences, the reality is that according to International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association (ILGA), 35 countries outlaw homosexuality and according to Human Rights Watch, in Benin and the Central African Republic, specific laws apply to homosexuals that infringe their rights. Eleven countries have never criminalized homosexual activity between adults[1], however cultural and societal taboos perpetuate extreme discrimination against LGBT+. In three countries, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan homosexuality is punishable by death and in Tanzania, Uganda and Sierra Leone life sentences are provided for within the legislation.

[1] Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger and Rwanda.

Minority stress has become an important organising concept in the

research literature of recent years. It refers to the additional stressors

experienced by groups facing stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. These

create a hostile and stressful social environment which in turn, contributes

to mental health problems.

A 2012-2013 mapping of LGBT+ networks and organisations in Tanzania

showed that the local LGBT movement was quite fragmented, mostly

centred in Dar Es Salaam, and that LGBT+ individuals seriously lack support

systems – even within the LGBT+ community. Most of the LGBT people in

the mapping expressed a deep sense of loneliness, said they lacked access

to basic information, including information about where to go to for help

and support when faced with discrimination and hate crimes.

In addition to the legal, cultural, religious and (often) socioeconomic

barriers, LGBT+ people and other stigmatised minorities also face

significant psychosocial challenges. This makes it both more difficult to

build community and to do the work necessary to bring about social

change.

This is an unsurprising conclusion, but the research does provide an

evidence base and a strong argument for the importance of an Inside-Out

approach to work with stigmatised minority groups. To strengthen the

movements and organisations of these groups, one must also strengthen

people’s psychological resilience, and their sense of self-efficacy and

community. This is one key reason that personalisation and work with the

self remains the entry point for all PV programmes.