Progress and setbacks on LGBT rights in Africa — an overview of the last year

When it comes to the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Africa, the past year has been a mixed bag. Of the 69 countries that criminalise same-sex relations, 33 are in Africa. Although the examples are few, there has been some progress.
June marks the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots over the treatment of LGBT people by New York City police, which was commemorated a year later with a protest march. In countries where it is possible, pride marches and parades are now ubiquitous, including in South Africa, which held its first in 1990.
Pride month is a time to reflect on progress but also ongoing challenges in advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Many countries in Africa have poor reputations when it comes to LGBT rights. The anthropologist Zethu Matebeni has parodied this uniformly gloomy view in a piece entitled How Not to Write About Queer South Africa. But the same volume also highlights the ways in which sexual and gender minorities are marginalised by “African political, religious and traditional leaders”.
When it comes to the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Africa, the past year has been a mixed bag.
In the first half of 2021, instances of violence against LGBT people in Senegal were reported by rights groups there, while police in Kenya came under pressure to properly investigate the brutal murder of a non-binary lesbian in Karatina, north of Nairobi.
South Africa, notwithstanding strong legal protections, continues to battle violence directed against LGBT people. In 2021, at least 24 people were reportedly murdered in bias-motivated attacks. The Ministry of Justice is revising its policy and approach to combating systemic gender-based violence in the country.
Of the 69 countries that criminalize same-sex relations, 33 are in Africa. In most cases, these laws are remnants of colonial rule, and the vague wording of these prohibitions, such as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” resonate with the decorum of that era. Although the examples are few, there has been some progress over the last year on the protection of LGBT rights in Africa.
In November, the Botswana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct. The court found that the Penal Code provisions outlawing “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” were unconstitutional as they violate the right to privacy, the right to liberty, security of person, and equal protection ...