South Africa’s constitution prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and guarantees equality for gay and lesbian people. Same-sex marriages are legal and transgender people can change their sex description and gender marker in the national birth register. Nevertheless, the LGBTQ community has long been subjected to hate speech, discrimination, and grotesque violence in the country.
Moreover, many South Africans still perceive LGBTQ individuals as inherently immoral and “un-African”, and thus pay little attention to the abuse they endure on a daily basis in the country. It is time for South Africa to respond decisively to this growing problem by adopting preventive measures against homophobic hate speech and hate crimes.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of South Africa has urged the parliament to pass a proposed hate crimes law. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill 2018 aims to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech on grounds of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, among others. The bill’s ratification has been delayed due to concerns that it may inhibit freedom of speech.
In South Africa, for instance, the monthly earnings of gender nonconforming, gay or bisexual men are, on average, 30 percent lower than that of gender conforming heterosexual men. Worse still, LGBTQ people also suffer from higher rates of suicide, rape and violence.
In many African countries, colonial anti-LGBTQ laws and attitudes are still in full force, and LGBTQ individuals continue to be routinely targeted by government authorities, religious groups and those who claim to be fighting to preserve “traditional values”.
In Uganda, where LGBTQ people face widespread persecution, President Yoweri Museveni claimed that the protests against his 35-year rule were funded by “foreign homosexuals” in January.
In Cameroon, security forces have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, or threatened at least 24 people for alleged consensual same-sex conduct or gender nonconformity since February 2021.
In Ghana, church groups, politicians and anti-gay rights organisations held demonstrations against the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQ community centre in February. Predictably the protests and condemnation led to the abrupt closure of the community centre founded by LGBT+ Rights Ghana.
The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the persecution of LGBTQ communities. The Ghana Muslim Mission, for example, attributed the COVID-19 pandemic to “homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism” in a communique it issued in March 2020.
The endless stigmatisation of homosexuals and the presentation of unfounded links between LGBTQ communities and public health or socioeconomic crises are deplorable and inhumane.
LGBTQ people, especially HIV-positive men, struggle to access adequate healthcare in, among others, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Cameroon and Uganda. This unfair and unethical restriction not only puts LGBTQ lives at risk, but also hinders the global fight against HIV.
Moreover, the continent-wide discrimination prevents most LGBTQ individuals from obtaining gainful employment, leaving them struggling to make ends meet.
Africa’s LGBTQ communities need more protection and support | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera