Amnesty International Urges Africa to End Discrimination Against LGBTI on International Day Against Homophobia

Press Release
May 15, 2012

Amnesty International Urges Africa to End Discrimination Against LGBTI on International Day Against Homophobia

Contact: Alex Edwards, aedwards@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761,

Discrimination and persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in South Africa and Cameroon must end, Amnesty International said today, as activists around the world mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murder committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are increasing across sub-Saharan Africa. Political leaders in many African countries not only fail to protect LGBTI rights, but often use statements or actions to incite discrimination and persecution.

In Cameroon, seven men are currently imprisoned under the laws prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct. In South Africa, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are widespread, as attacks on LGBTI people are inadequately investigated, creating a climate of impunity for perpetrators.

"It is deeply disturbing that in 2012, people are still persecuted 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 and South African authorities ensure hate crimes against LGBTI people are thoroughly investigated, upholding their constitutional right to equality."

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 based on their perceived sexual orientation In virtually no cases have the police or other eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the alleged prohibited 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 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 April 24, 2011, 24-year old lesbian Noxolo Nogwaza was murdered on her way home from a night out with friends. Her attackers raped, 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.

In the last five years, there have been at least 10 reported cases of rape, followed by murder, of lesbian women throughout the country. South African civil society and Amnesty International continue to campaign against widespread failure to investigate homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.