On a continent where LGBTI rights are skimmed over constantly, for the first time, in May 2014, the African Union (AU) granted acknowledgment and a sense of protection to the LGBTI community all over Africa.
These changes in Africa’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights serves as a direct rebuttal to fellow African nations, Nigeria and Uganda; two countries that recently passed laws denouncing LGBTI rights in Africa. In Uganda, the law passed stated that if a human is convicted of homosexuality, they are to be imprisoned for life. The situation in Nigeria is similar to this, also criminalizing same-sex marriage harshly.
Both these countries refuse to offer support to a large portion of their community and therefore received outraged feedback from much of the country and foreign countries as well.
While there is no formal law associated with the new view coming into play in the AU, the resolution has been formally acknowledged. The document states that the AU condemns the difficult reality of LGBTI rights in Africa and it’s disruption of human rights, including many violations such as murder, rape, assault and biased imprisonment or persecution based on sexual identity.
LGBTI community leaders have rejoiced with this small victory in Africa. The resolution lacks any sort of enforcement laws and serves more so as guidelines and expectations, but for those who have suffered greatly, this is a huge step in the direction of overturning current laws seen in Nigeria and Uganda.
The AU represents a possible change in heart for many Africans who have become accustomed to politicians from all over the continent supporting and allowing violence against LGBTI while claiming their human rights are fictional fairy tales of the U.S. and Europe. This overarching change allows hope for those who live in daily fear for themselves and their loved ones.
This iconic first step to possible equal rights in Africa creates a strong platform for growth and development throughout the nations. There is a slight possibility that the AU will revoke this resolution, however, many members seem hopeful and supportive of this change in a progressive direction. A homegrown movement such as this accurately represents the turmoil of the LGBTI community in Africa and their hopes for an equalized future.
– Elena Lopez