Today, the public proceedings of the African Commission on People’s and Human Rights (ACHPR), founded in 1987, is coming to a close, and it remains to be seen what will become of the ideas proposed and how they will affect LGBT people throughout Africa.
The resolutions put forward will be discussed in private until November 5. Despite the progress and support behind the advancement of the African LGBT community, or as they prefer to be titled, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), the commission will not necessarily adopt them. However, their progress this year marks a stepping stone for LGBT rights in Africa, as their voices are heard publicly and universally.
Africa has long been criticized for its extreme anti-gay laws, differing from country to country, but ultimately having the same coalition of hate-filled desire to punish the LGBT community.
The LGBT population in Africa has been considered the unaccepted “other” that is wholly un-African. Therefore there is a distinct separation made between the homosexual and the heterosexual, allowing violence against them to be tolerated not only socially but politically.
Recently there has been a rise in LGBT voices in Africa, as people attempt to reach out to their governments, and ensure their issues become a universal concern. However, in a social environment so stifling and where people fear for their lives, it can be extremely hard to step into the spotlight. Time and time again the LGBT community has tried to change their rights, or to at least force people to acknowledge their place in society, but they have been shot down, ignored, or violently silenced.
The ACHPR is a chance to push these issues into the limelight, and to help politicians see how important it is to change these homophobic societal norms. The forum is a highly politicised environment as grievances between or about certain states are thrown into the public eye, making it a hugely important event for the LGBT community. SOGI have been making progress these last few years with the eleven elected members of the commission, and this year they managed to get almost 50 participants to focus on SOGI goals.
Maybe the disapproval from so many other countries might allow Africa, as a continent, to reconsider their perspectives on LGBT rights, and place pressure and shame on the political faces of African countries that are allowing intolerable violence and some that are trying to pass the death penalty for homosexuality.
This month President Mahama of Ghana reportedly responded to a question about gay rights during a visit to Kennesaw State University (KSU) saying, “It’s controversial. And it’s the same, it’s controversial everywhere else, especially in Africa. It’s a difficult situation. People have a certain cultural hostility towards it, but I believe that laws must prevail. For instance, people must not be beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation.”
His words do not show he is an advocate for gay rights; however, his sympathy for the physical safety of the LGBT community marks a very small positive step in giving the LGBT population a tolerated position in society.
Lets hope that the commission can deliver a progressive step for the LGBT community, beginning the slow arduous journey to ensure the safety of the African SOGI population.