President Obama Must Use Africa Trip to Push Leaders to Protect Human Rights

Press Release
June 26, 2013

President Obama Must Use Africa Trip to Push Leaders to Protect Human Rights

New Report Shows Need for Pressing Response to Escalating Violence, Homophobia against LGBTI Communities in Africa

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) - On the eve of President Obama's trip this week to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, Amnesty International USA is urging the president to demand greater respect for and protection of human rights across the African continent. In a letter sent to the president last week, Amnesty International USA asked him to address the issues of gender-based violence, violence and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities. Today, Amnesty International released a report documenting escalating homophobia and arrests of LGBTI individuals across Africa. The letter also urged attention be paid to ending gender based violence against women and deepening threats to civil society.

The report, "Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa," found that "homosexual acts" are being increasingly criminalized across Africa. Homosexuality is illegal or in the process of being criminalized in 38 African countries, including in two that President Obama will visit - Senegal and Tanzania. In Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, individuals found guilty of homosexuality face the death penalty. Additionally, in the last five years, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia and Nigeria have introduced laws that further criminalize homosexuality. The report also includes a review of the current state of anti-LGBTI legal provisions across the continent and features case studies of African individuals struggling to survive daily discrimination and threats.

In the letter to the president, Amnesty International suggests specific policy priorities that President Obama should share with the leaders of South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania. The group also recommends that the president meet with organizations defending human rights, especially those working to protect the rights of women and the LGBTI community.

"Africa typically fails to receive significant attention, and visits by the president of the United States are rare," said Adotei Akwei, managing director of Government Relations and Africa specialist for Amnesty International USA in Washington. "Amnesty International sees this trip as one of the few opportunities that President Obama will have to recommit the United States to being a force for human rights and human dignity in partnership with the governments of Africa and the African people." "President Obama has an opportunity to underscore to African leaders and the African public that all individuals, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation, have rights, and governments have the obligation to protect those rights."

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.