From its base in Johannesburg, South Africa, IGLHRC's Africa Program fights for an end to human rights violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in Africa and provides support to the growing sexual rights movement in the region. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In many countries those who challenge sexual or gender norms face arbitrary arrest and detention, physical attacks, blackmail or extortion, and discrimination in the areas of employment, education, and access to health care. Our staff partners with activists throughout Africa, Europe and North America, to identify and implement strategies that promote sexual rights and to work for the repeal of discriminatory laws.

Our work involves:

• Responding in a Crisis
When someone is arrested, attacked, expelled or fired because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, our staff works with local activists and progressive institutions to quickly launch strategies designed to bring about a remedy. In the past few years, we have responded to arrests or attacks on individuals or communities in many countries including Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia. In Cameroon, we worked on behalf on nearly two-dozen men arrested for their sexual orientation—writing letters, sending emergency relief and even demonstrating for their release in front of Cameroonian diplomatic missions in France, South Africa and the United States.

• Conferring with African Regional Institutions
Our staff promotes human rights standards that apply to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. Advocacy and education around sexual rights at the Commission and the NGO Forum that immediately precedes the twice-annual sessions are central to our strategy for decriminalizing homosexuality in Africa. We have helped African groups from Cameroon and Nigeria deliver public statements on sexual rights, submitted shadow reports on Uganda and Nigeria and met with Commissioners to advocate for regional protections for those targeted for abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

• Conducting Research and Documenting Human Rights Abuses
We have produced short reports on African countries including Uganda and Nigeria, as well as our comprehensive report, More Than A Name: State-sponsored homophobia in Southern Africa‚ researched and written jointly by IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch. Upcoming reports include: Blackmail of Sexual Minorities in Africa, African LGBT Community Centers, and a comprehensive report on LGBT rights in Senegal. In 2007, we published Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa. Based on more than a year of research, including interviews in more than a dozen countries, Off the Map examines the ways in which same-sex desire and behavior have been simultaneously erased and criminalized in Africa, and shows how this jeopardizes efforts to combat the AIDS epidemic.

• Pursuing Structural and Institutional Change
In addition to responding to human rights emergencies, our Africa program focuses on changing laws, attitudes and perceptions. To this end, we have supported domestic litigation challenging unfair laws in Uganda, fought against homophobic revisions to the Rwandan Penal Code, and drawn attention to hate crimes in South Africa. Our staff was part of an international coalition that successfully challenged the passage of a bill in Nigeriathat would have made participation in a gay and lesbian organization illegal. Together with key international and African partners, we recently convened a strategy workshop on criminal defense and strategic litigation related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

• Providing Training, Capacity Building, and Political Space for Strategizing
Our staff has provided formal training to its partners in Africa on topics ranging from human rights treaties and the African human rights system to the UN and its human rights mechanisms. In 2008, we organized trainings on human rights documentation, religious homophobia in Africa and gender identity issues in the African context. We engage in regular informal mentoring and support to our partners on issues including fundraising, advocacy strategies and organizational development.


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