What is ‘Southern Africa’?There are many ways to define the region ‘Southern Africa’. For the purposes of the pilot grant-making initiative, the founding Board of The Other Foundation has defined Southern Africa to include:

We need to limit the geographic scope of our work, because we have limited resources. Also, there is another foundation similar to ours that works in East Africa. Currently, the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative (UHAI EASHRI) supports work in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Our geographic scope may well change as The Other Foundation develops, particularly under the leadership of our newly appointed Chief Executive Officer (in place by July 2014).

If you would like to tell us what countries you think should be included in the definition of Southern Africa, please email us at:southernafrica@theotherfoundation.org

Human rights for LGBTI people in Southern Africa

Many websites and organisations have documented some of the challenges to human rights for LGBTI people in Southern Africa and profiled organisations that are working to defend and advance them.

An excellent reference for understanding some of the issues of concern to LGBTI activists around the world, as well as formal responses from their national governments, is the United Nations’ (UN) human rights monitoring processes. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was established to assess all member states’ human rights records through the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) process. Over a four-year cycle each of the UN’s 193 member states submits a short country report outlining key human rights issues within their country. Civil society organisations in member countries can submit issues of concern to the UNHRC directly. Each state’s report is discussed in a plenary session of the Council, in which members can make comments and recommendations to the state under review, which in turn has an opportunity to respond.

Below are some extracts of debates that have taken place at the UNHRC about LGBTI rights in Southern African countries. You can find out more about the UNHRC and these debates by visiting the Arc International website.

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Botswana

The human rights report of the government of Botswana was discussed at the UNHRC on 1 December 2008.

In this report, key non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Botswana recommended that Botswana decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults.

The national government of Botswana rejected this recommendation arguing that:

In Botswana we are committed to the democratic process. This means that the Government of the day must be responsive to the needs and demands of the people […] It is against this background that the position of my Government on issues such as the death penalty, corporate punishment, gays and lesbians rights should be understood. As a Government we cannot legislate against the culture of our society nor the wishes of the vast majority of the people.

[…] as I said, it would be very dangerous to ignore some of the culture that has actually played a vital role in making you what you are as a nation. Laws have developed from culture, and it would be very, very dangerous if then we decide to ignore the culture of the majority of people and go with the minority. That could destabilize the country. But we are open, and as I said, those organizations, which are not necessarily set up to advocate rights of lesbians and gays, but would like to advocate those rights, they are free to do so and educate the people. Once the people accept that these rights must be afforded to everybody, then the people will tell the government that this is what we want, and the government will do it. But we shall not go against the wishes of the people. As I said, that doesn’t happen in a democracy. 

To read further, please go here

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Lesotho

The human rights report of the government of Lesotho was discussed at the UNHRC on 5 May 2010.

In this report, key NGOs in Lesotho recommended that the country decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults, andintroduce policies aimed at ending discrimination against homosexuals.

The national government of Lesotho rejected these recommendations and made no supporting comments to justify its position.

To read further, please go here

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Malawi

The human rights report of the government of Malawi was discussed at the UNHRC on 1 November 2010.

In this report, key NGOs in Malawi recommended that Malawi decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults; eliminate all forms of discrimination against LGBTI people, including in customary law; put in place a moratorium on convictions for same-sex relationships; immediately and unconditionally release all persons deprived of their liberty only for this reason; introduce policies aimed at ending discrimination against LGBTI people; and allow the registration of NGOs that defend matters of sexual orientation and gender identity without discrimination.

The national government of Malawi rejected these recommendations arguing that:

[…] there was no homophobia or incitement against gay people. The law simply outlawed unnatural acts, which could even be committed in a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. 

The wishes of the people of Malawi in this regard should be respected. It noted that there was no international consensus on gay rights or on the right of gay persons to marry. Malawi should not be unduly singled out and unnecessarily pressured to legalize homosexuality.

On the issue of the decriminalization of same-sex marriage, Malawi emphasized that it had no law criminalizing such marriage, but a law proscribing unnatural offences. It noted Malawi’s historical background. Malawi had been a British protectorate, and when it had gained its independence, it had adopted all the laws then in force, including that regarding unnatural acts. In 1994, Malawi had adopted a new Constitution, under which a Law Commission had been established that was mandated with the task of reviewing all laws to ensure that they were consistent with the Constitution. The Law Commission was in the process of reviewing legislation.

To read further, please go here

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Mozambique

The human rights report of the government of Mozambique was discussed at the UNHRC on 1 February 2011.

In this report, key NGOs in Mozambique recommended that Mozambique decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adultsand fully guarantee the right of association, including for NGOs working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The national government of Mozambique rejected these recommendations arguing that:

[The] Constitution makes no reference to sexual orientation. The country is confronted with profoundly entrenched cultural and religious habits and such issues are recent and have only begun to be faced now. It was added, that homosexuality is not criminalized, as there is no such definition in the Criminal Code so that no one can be sanctioned for homosexuality. It was added, regarding freedom of association, that there was no restriction in this regard. 

To read further, please go here

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Namibia

The human rights report of the government of Namibia was discussed at the UNHRC on 31 January 2011.

In this report, key NGOs in Namibia recommended that Namibia decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults andremove all laws that discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The national government of Namibia rejected these recommendations arguing that:[…] Namibia is a young democracy, a young country that has priorities of education, of health, combating of HIV/AIDS. Namibia is a big country with a small population of about 2.1million, and a homosexual in itself, in our African tradition, means contraceptive measures against childbirth. With a small population in our country we cannot afford to promote homosexualism, but those who are behaving themselves in this fashion are not prosecuted […]. They are not prosecuted provided they conduct themselves in private just like all other citizens do. I think human rights should also protect the rights of others who may be offended to see immoral practice being practised in public. All of us as human beings have, one way or the other, chosen to be who we are, but we don’t impose how we want to be on others provided our right to behave in the way we want is not imposed on others. Homosexualism, lesbianism, can be practised as long as it is not imposed on others in public, just as we cap smoking in public. In Namibia there is a law prohibiting people to smoke in public because we consider it as not right to do so in public.

To read further, please go here

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South Africa

The human rights report of the government of South Africa was discussed at the UNHRC on 15 April 2008.

In this report, key NGOs in South Africa recommended that South Africa continue to promote and protect the right of all persons to equality without discrimination based on sexual orientation; provide better remedies to victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation; andseek to prevent such discrimination through sensitivity programmes and education.

The national government of South Africa made a general statement affirming the principle of non-discrimination, including on the ground of sexual orientation, but left unclear its position on the specific recommendations.

To read further, please go here

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Swaziland

The human rights report of the government of Swaziland was discussed at the UNHRC on 4 October 2011.

In this report, key NGOs in Swaziland recommended that Swaziland decriminalise same-sex relations and prevent discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation; establish a specific framework to protect against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation; and implement public awareness-raising campaigns.

The national government of Swaziland rejected these recommendations arguing that:

[…] to date no one has been prosecuted for sexual orientation offenses. As the world revolves, Swaziland would look on the possibility to adopt a policy on the issue

To read further, please go here

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Zambia

The human rights report of the government of Zambia was discussed at the UNHRC on 9 May 2008.

In this report, key NGOs in Zambia recommended that Zambia decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults anddevelop programmes to respond to the HIV/AIDS-related needs of sexually active gay men.

The national government of Zambia rejected these recommendations arguing that:

[…] I would like to state that laws in any country are a reflection of the social-economic development of any country. Zambia, to be specific, has dealt with the issue of […] same-sex relationships, has consulted its people, and the people of Zambia are adverse to [this] to be legalized in Zambia. And we have mentioned […] that these issues hinge on the constitution and they have been referred to the National Constitutional Council for deliberation. 

To read further, please go here

zimbabwe-flagZimbabweThe human rights report of the government of Zimbabwe was discussed at the UNHRC on 10 October 2011.

In this report, key NGOs in Zimbabwe recommended that Zimbabwe decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults.

The national government of Zimbabwe rejected these recommendations without comment.

To read further, please go here

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