n African Human Rights Law Journal - LGBT rights in Africa and the discursive role of international human rights law

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Much of Africa seems to be riding on a homophobic wave that is being billed as an African resistance to Western attempts to force homosexuality on Africa. However, this Africanisation of homophobia is based on false premises. Pre-colonial Africa entertained a diverse set of ways in which non-heterosexuality and non-heteronormativity were expressed and it was colonialism that introduced the now widespread religious and legal norms that policed sexuality and gender. The current wave of homophobia is also based on Western anti-LGBT rights discourses and in some part is sponsored by Western/American evangelical groups. The article argues that the imposition of an African label on colonial and neo-colonial products needs to be challenged without, however, effectively replacing it with an equally Western construct. The article advocates a grassroots and ground-up approach wherein international law on LGBT rights is used for its discursive value at the societal, national and regional levels. As part of this approach, it is argued that activists should temporarily refrain from bringing LGBT cases to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights since a detrimental decision, which currently is extremely likely, can cause serious and long-term problems.

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