Cape Town - In many countries around the world, it’s still illegal to be gay. In Africa, it’s no different.
However, that tide is slowly turning, and as legislation and court rulings go, so hopefully shifts the public perception and acceptance.
A recent court ruling is being hailed as a victory for the LGBTIAQ community.
Botswana’s High Court ruled in favour of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Three judges ruled unanimously for decriminalisation, on the basis that it was unconstitutional.
It’s hoped that Botswana’s ruling spurs other countries on to embrace sexual diversity.
Now, this is a big deal, because Africa is largely still seen as hostile towards the LGBTIAQ community.
Even though being gay is legal in many African states, attitudes towards homosexual people are still largely archaic.
For example, South Africa has one of the most liberal consitutions on the continent and has laws protecting the rights of the LGBTIAQ community, but members of this community still experience violence, intimidation, corrective rape, and even murder at the hands of intolerant people.
So, while countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda and as mentioned, South Africa don’t outlaw being gay, homosexuals are still victimised.
In some countries like Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan and southern Somalia, being gay even carries the death penalty, according to Amnesty International UK.
Kenya’s High Court recently dismissed an application to overturn laws criminalising homosexuality, but even so, the gay community that brought the application is pleased that their fight got so far, and they have vowed to continue championing the cause.
Their fight is not over; neither is the fight for gay rights in many other African countries where attitudes towards homosexuality are shifting slowly.
It’s important that as Africans we take a stand and support the LGBTIAQ community, because a unified Africa is a stronger Africa.
Seeing as it is Pride Month globally, wouldn’t you like to know what LGBTIAQ stands for?
Not too long ago, I enlisted the help of Dr Nyx Maclean, a researcher who studies LGBTIAQ identities and social movements. They helped demystify some of the letters for me.
L is for lesbian: women loving women - be it romantic, sexual, or emotional love - of the same gender.
G is for gay: Self-identified men loving men.
B is for bisexual: Someone who loves people of any gender.
T is for transgender: Someone who does not fit their assigned gender identity. For instance someone who may have been born female and raised as a girl but does not identify as a girl or woman but as a man or a non-binary person.
I is for intersex: This is a person who is born with different chromosomes, sex hormones, or genitals and do not align with what is typically a male or female body.
A is for asexual: Someone is asexual if they do not experience any sexual desire, attraction or feelings for another person. This does not mean that they cannot have romantic or platonic relationships but that these relationships are not founded on sexual desire but rather on feelings and human connection.
Q is for queer: This is often used as a catch-all for the LGBTIAQ community. Queer is an identity in and of itself. It can mean not fitting into any particular label or sexual identity that exists.
You may also encounter other letters, like LGBTIAQQAP+ for example, which includes questioning, allies, pansexual and + for everyone else who does not identify as heterosexual, cisgender or with any of the options available.
When you’re educated about something, you’re far more likely to be accepting of it.
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