Africa: End discrimination against LGBTI on international day against homophobia

Discrimination and persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in South Africa and Cameroon must be halted, Amnesty International said as activists around the world mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.Instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are increasing across sub-Saharan Africa. Political leaders in some countries in Africa not only fail to protect people’s rights not to be discriminated against, but also often used statements or actions to incite discrimination and persecution. In Cameroon, seven men are currently imprisoned under the laws prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct, while homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are widespread in South Africa, where attacks on LGBTI people are inadequately investigated, creating a climate of impunity for perpetrators.“It is deeply disturbing that in 2012, people are still being persecuted because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s director for Africa.“It is high time that the Cameroonian government moves to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity.”“In South Africa, authorities must ensure that hate crimes against LGBTI people are thoroughly investigated and their constitutional right to equality upheld.”Since March 2011, 13 people in Cameroon have been arrested under the law criminalizing ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’.Most have been targeted on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation, rather than on any alleged participation in prohibited consensual acts. In virtually no cases have the police or other eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the alleged sexual acts. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found that laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity are in violation of international human rights law.In Cameroon, a court in Yaounde sentenced Jean-Claude Roger Mbede to three years in prison under this law in April 2011. Two other men were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in July 2011, while four more men who were arrested in August 2011 remain in detention awaiting trial.In South Africa, sexual assaults and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are all too common, particularly against those living in townships and rural areas.In the early hours of 24 April last year, 24-year old lesbian Noxolo Nogwaza was murdered on her way home from a night out with friends. Her attackers raped, repeatedly beat and stabbed her – apparently because of her sexual orientation – before dumping her body in a drainage ditch. A year after her death, no progress has been made in the investigation into her murder and her killers remain at large.Noxolo, who was also a human rights defender, lived and died in KwaThema, a township east of Johannesburg in Gauteng Province. In the last five years, there have been at least 10 cases reported of rape followed by murder of lesbian women in townships in different parts of the country. South African civil society and Amnesty International are campaigning against widespread failure to investigate homophobic and transphobic hate crimes which contributes to a climate of impunity for perpetrators.