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Where being Gay in Africa is a Sex Crime

Where being Gay in Africa is a Sex Crime

There has been widespread outrage as well as various calls to action following the latest homophobic rant and threats to its gay population from yet another African politician, this time in Tanzania. Ten men were arrested on 3rd November at a party at Pongwe Beach on the island of Zanzibar, as part of the latest anti-LGBT crackdown in the East African nation.

According to Amnesty International, the men were arrested for allegedly conducting a gay marriage, with police saying they found the men sitting in pairs “two by two”.  Amnesty’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Sief Magango said “It is mind-boggling that the mere act of sitting in a pair can assume criminal proportions. The police clearly have no grounds to file charges against these men in court, despite arresting them. This is a shocking blow following the Tanzanian government’s assurance that no one would be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity”

The arrests seem to be a result of a specific anti – LGBT campaign announced by the governor of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, over and above the ongoing general persecution where people have been arrested for the non-existent offence of “promoting homosexuality” and where life-saving sexual health services are being denied to men who have sex with men. Makonda called on the public to name or turn in people suspected of homosexuality. So far, other than those arrested, 18 000 people’s names have been submitted to government on suspicion of being queer.

Colonial-era legislation still in force makes sex between people of the same sex illegal and carries prison sentences including the maximum penalty of 30 years in jail. Men arrested for this “crime” often face forced anal exams as “evidence” that they engaged in sex.

Unfortunately, Tanzania is not unique. In many countries around the world, including 34 African nations, being gay is still against the law, and “criminals” face a range of punishments. Some do not explicitly outlaw being gay, but gay people still face potential prosecution under vaguely-worded laws regarding “morality” or “decency”. In some countries, being gay is illegal but the law or its punishments are not enforced. Gay people in these countries could still fall victim to these laws, should a change in government or policing occur. Sentences range from fines to whipping to imprisonment, and in several cases, even the death penalty.

These are the countries in Africa where being gay is still a crime, explicitly or otherwise:

Algeria

“Homosexual acts” are explicitly illegal for men and women since the implementation of Sharia Law in 1966. Punishment: Fines of up to 10,000 dinars, up to three years in prison. Extrajudicial killings of LGBT people by vigilante groups are tolerated by the authorities

Angola

Not explicitly illegal for men or women. The 1886 Colonial law bans “acts against nature” but the penal code formally approved in 2017 does not outlaw consenting same-sex activity
Botswana

Botswana penal code explicitly ban so-called “unnatural offences”. Punishment: Up to 7 years in prison (not widely enforced)

Burundi

Illegal for men and women since 2009, under Burundi Penal Code. Punishment: Up to two years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 francs

Cameroon

Illegal for men and women, since 1972. Punishment: Up to 5 years’ imprisonment and fine of up to 200,000 francs. Extrajudicial killings of LGBT people by vigilante groups are tolerated by the authorities

Chad

Illegal for men and women 2016 after a referendum. Punishment: A fine as it is deemed a misdemeanour

Comoros

Illegal for men and women. Homosexual acts are considered to be “against nature”
Punishment: Up to five years’ imprisonment and 1,000,000 franc fine

Egypt

Not explicitly illegal, but de facto illegal for men and women under public morality and order laws since 2000. Little has changed since the 2011 Revolution. Punishment: Up to 17 years imprisonment with hard labour and fines (not well-enforced)

Eritrea

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment

Ethiopia

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal with a range of punishments depending on circumstances. Up to 15 years imprisonment

Gambia

Illegal for men and women. Up to life imprisonment

Ghana

Illegal for men who have “unnatural carnal knowledge” of other men, punishable with up to 3 years imprisonment

Guinea

Illegal for men and women .Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment and fines of up to 1,000,000 francs

Kenya

Illegal for men and women under Penal Code that bans sodomy and “gross indecency”. Punishment: Up to 14 years imprisonment

Liberia

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 1 year imprisonment

Malawi

Illegal for men and women, but laws banning homosexuality were suspended (but not repealed) by then President Joyce Banda in 2012
Mauritania

Illegal for men and women under Sharia law as well as under the Criminal Code
Punishment: Execution by stoning for men, imprisonment for women

Mauritius

“Gay sex” is not explicitly illegal, but sodomy is banned for men and women. Punishment: Up to 5 years imprisonment

Morocco

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine

Namibia

Illegal for men under Roman-Dutch common-law imposed by South Africans but not enforced.

Nigeria

Illegal for men and women with varying punishments depending on the region of the divided nation: Execution by stoning in the Muslim North and up to 14 years imprisonment in the Christian South

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment

Senegal

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 5 years imprisonment

Sierra Leone

Sodomy illegal for men but rarely enforced,
Somalia

Illegal for men and women with strict Sharia Law. Punishment: Up to execution

South Sudan

Illegal for men and women. Legal code bans “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Punishment: Up to 10 years imprisonment

Sudan

Illegal for men and women under by strict Sharia Law, with the death penalty used as part of a complex and graded sequence of punishments.
Swaziland

Illegal for men under colonial laws. The current state of affairs is now uncertain, though it is thought that sodomy as defined as anal sex between men is still illegal
Tanzania

Illegal for men and women with differing laws applying to the mainland and to the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar. Punishment: Up to life imprisonment for men, up to 5 jail years for women

Togo

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 francs

Tunisia

Illegal for men and women. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment

Uganda

Illegal for men since 1894, and for women since 2000 when the law was updated. An explicit Anti-Homosexuality Act including the death penalty was passed in 2012, but annulled on a technicality in 2014. Punishment: Up to life imprisonment

Zambia

Illegal for men and women who act “against the order of nature”. Punishment: Up to 14 years imprisonment

Zimbabwe

Illegal for men since 1891 and same-sex acts are further criminalised under laws passed in 2006. Punishment: Up to 3 years imprisonment but seldom enforced.