ILGA Africa 2000 Report 

 Homosexuality in Africa

Author: International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) South Africa
Date: No date (2000)
Title: ILGA Africa 2000 Report
Concerning: The situation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people in Africa.
Source: ILGA - South Africa



Botswana | Cameroon | Egypt | Uganda | Zimbabwe | Zambia 




Homosexuality in Africa has long been a taboo subject. This makes researching human rights abuses perpetrated against LGBT people difficult. No news, in this case, is not good news. The silence from LGBT people in Africa is deafening. It indicates that LGBT people are being silenced by cultural constraint and government restriction. Many African countries outlaw homosexuality outright, while others, though not mentioning it specifically criminalise the lives of LGBT people through cultural convention (Sha'ria laws in Islamic countries).

This report aims to break the silence, documenting not only countries with well-known human rights records like South Africa and Zimbabwe, but also countries like Uganda, Zambia and Kenya that have repressive laws regarding LGBT people. It will show that while progress is being made, the international LGBT community should not become complacent. Africa is being across the continent and violence against LGBT ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, LGBT people are being denied their basic human rights people is commonplace. 



Homosexuality is illegal in Botswana, and is punishable by up to seven years in prison. The Botswana Penal Code deals with homosexual acts in Cap. 08:01: 164, 165, 166, 167, making specific mention of male/male sexual acts in 167. Though lesbians are not specifically mentioned, it would appear that they too are discriminated against in Botswanan society. It is not known at this time if any lesbians are being prosecuted.



There are several laws covering sexual activity in Cameroon. Both same-sex male and female sexual contact is illegal. Section 347 of the Penal Code criminalises sexual contacts with members of the same sex with a penalty of 6 months to 5 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to CFA 200.000. If one of the persons involved is under the age of 21 the penalty is doubled. The Embassy of Congo in Brussels stated in 1987 that: "The practice of homosexuality does not exist in Congo".



Homosexuality is not mentioned in Egyptian law and Sharia laws do not apply. Egypt has some regulations concerning "offences against public morals and sensitivities" which could be used against homosexuals. Homosexual acts are not illegal. The minimum age for heterosexual, lesbian and gays sex is set at 18. It is safe to assume that the practice of homosexuality is not condoned by Egyptian society, as Islam is the most prevalent religion in Egypt and fundamentalism is on the rise.



Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and its criminality is entrenched in Ugandan common law , it's penal code, article 140 section (a) which states that, any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature is guilty of an offence and is liable to life imprisonment; and section (C) states that any person who permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of an offence and is liable to seven years imprisonment; He is charged according to article 141 of the penal code. 

Homosexuality is a taboo in our society and known homosexuals are excommunicated, even their clans will disown them. They are not welcomed anywhere, to the extent that people run away from them as soon as rumours about their sexual orientation start going around, in addition to that it also difficult for known homosexuals to find housing. 

Information about lesbianism is scant, though to my knowledge no lesbian has been arrested or expelled from school. 

There have been several cases of gay male students being expelled from schools on ground that they will contaminate others with their vices, as they refer to our sexual orientation. 
-In July 1999 25 students were suspended from Ntare high school. 
-In November 1999 4 gay students were sent home for being gays. 
-In October 1999 a 14 year old boy was expelled from school on the ground of his homosexuality. 

This is a violation of the constitution according to article 30 which states that everybody has the right to an education. All this has happened without anybody raising a finger to help or to condemn it. Even the so called Human rights activists and Law makers haven't stepped in to redeem the situation. 

The ruling party came out with a statement that homosexuals have no place in Uganda. 
The President called on the police to arrest gays. 
Many gays have been arrested and imprisoned. 
A Brazilian gay pastor is serving a 3 years sentence.
A Ugandan gay teacher is serving a six years sentence.
A transsexual, commonly known as Brenda, the most arrested , detained, tried and harassed homosexual in the history of Uganda was acquitted on 16th December 1999 due to lack of evidence after being in jail for a month and another on trial.

Many suspected homosexuals either have been arrested or have been harassed and emotionally tortured . Their businesses have been forced to close due to the lack of clients. They have become homeless as their landlords either evict them or they fail to find premises to hire. 

Though ,there have been virtually no press reports on homosexuality since the beginning of this year, the situation is hostile. We organising ourselves to try to extricate ourselves from our present predicament. 
Author: Tom Mubiru




GALZ celebrates its tenth anniversary in September this year. The organisation has come a long way: we have established a drop-in centre which was only a dream in 1990 and the issue of LGBT rights was placed firmly on the national agenda in 1995 when Mugabe came out publicly as one of Africa's most virulent homophobes. GALZ is now relatively well funded and owns the premises in the Harare suburb of Milton Park from which it operates.

As part of a general expansion plan during 1999, GALZ facilitated the setting up of a drop-in centre in Bulawayo to provide services for the LGBT communities in the South of Zimbabwe. GALZ members in Manicaland are also discussing the formation of a chapter based in Mutare.

Membership of GALZ doubled amongst the black community owing to advertising campaigns in the independent media and the number of people active within the organisation rose from three or four in 1998 to ten at the end of last year.

Numerous interviews were conducted with local and foreign press on the situation facing lesbian and gay people and the number of people willing to speak openly in public about their sexuality increased from one to seven (five men and two women).GALZ continued to release regular statements on issues relating to sexual minorities including comments on the prison service, the draft constitution and cases of sodomy appearing in the state-controlled press. Over half the statements released in 1999 were published by the independent press.

Poliyana Mangwiro, the subject of an Amnesty International alert in 1996, travelled through 13 European countries, the United States and Canada on a speakers' tour designed to raise awareness about the situation facing lesbians and gay men in Southern Africa. Her presentations were warmly welcomed throughout the world.

On the legal and political front, GALZ made a professional submission to the Constitutional Commission appealing for the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause in the next constitution. Although the draft constitution contained many provisions which would have kept GALZ busy challenging homophobic laws in the courts, the document as a whole was deeply flawed because it invested far too much power in the office of one individual - the President. For this reason, although GALZ remained politically neutral, most members of the LGBT communities voted against the constitution. The draft was rejected in a national referendum in February 2000.

GALZ commissioned a gender policy document arguing that lesbian and gay rights are gender rights. This document now forms the basis of GALZ's legal and political strategy as regards gender and sexuality.

The GALZ lawyer, Derek Matyszak, has continued to handle cases of blackmail which have come to the attention of the organisation. All seven cases were successfully resolved without the matter coming to the attention of the police.

During 1998, it became clear to GALZ that there was little point in trying to change the minds of the current leadership about LGBT issues. During 1999, GALZ made a special effort to build bridges with the potential future leadership of Zimbabwe and was encouraged by the responses of the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions which has called for tolerance of lesbian and gay people both in the workplace and in broader society. The new opposition party, MDC looks set either to win the next Parliamentary elections or at least gain a significant proportion of the seats. The MDC has openly stated that it will pursue a policy of tolerance towards the LGBT communities and encourage a nation-wide education programme around LGBT issues.

GALZ continued to be active in the field of HIV//AIDS. Through its support group, GALZ Positive, the organisation provided home-based care training and nutrition course for members. The safer-sex workshop programme conducted six workshops in Harare and Bulawayo on subjects such as sexual activity both within and outside relationships. The safer-sex programme began a slow process of transformation towards becoming the GALZ gender programme.

Following GALZ's attempts to participate at the World Council of Churches 8th general assembly in Harare in December 1998, GALZ started a fellowship group for lesbian and gay Christians looking for spiritual support and affirmation of their sexuality.

In regards to training, 30 members of GALZ attended a week-long course on small-business management and ten members from Bulawayo attended the first counselling module facilitated by the local systemic counselling service, CONNECT. The administrator of GLOM attended a ten-day human rights training course provided by IGLHRC in Johannesburg, South Africa.

GALZ is now active in establishing a gender and sexuality outreach programme using the platform of AIDS. The aim is to reach out to communities who are either too fearful or unable to make direct contact with us. The programme demonstrates GALZ's commitment to taking broader responsibility when it comes to HIV//AIDS beyond the borders of its own immediate concerns.
Author: Keith Goddard



As a former British colony, Zambia inherited all of Britain's legal systems and Penal code. While Britain has repealed or modified its legal system, Zambia still continues to use these archaic laws.

Laws concerning Homosexuality are in the Penal code under the infamous sodomy laws. They are put together with acts such as Bestiality under the title "Unnatural Offences".


Zambian Penal code Cap 87 Section 115;

Unnatural Offences

Any person who

a] has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature
b] has carnal knowledge of an animal
c] permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature 
is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years. [As amended by No. 26 of 1933] 

The Penal code of Zambia Cap 87 Section 157

Any male person who whether in public or in private commits any act of gross indecency with another male person or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person whether in public or in private is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years.
[as amended by no 26. of 1933]

The Zambian Penal code does not mention sex between two consenting women but legally Cap 87 Section 155 covers lesbians.

In Zambia the public attitude is that not only is it morally wrong since, Zambia has been declared a Christian nation, but that it is insane, madness and likened to the behaviour of dogs and animals. Nobody is sympathetic, young or old, the government, all political parties, all NGO's except two [ZIMT
AND AFRONET], Churches, the whole Zambian community and half of the homosexual community.

The politicians, in particular the Vice President and the President have instructed the police to arrest anybody who supports LGBT people or anyone who says that they are gay. The National Parliament has spoken strongly against the LGBT community and says that such abnormal people should be arrested.

In the last quarter of 1999 an NGO calling itself Zambia Against People with Abnormal Sexual Acts [ZAPASA] was formed to fight against homosexuals.

The Zambian registrar of societies has refused to register LGBT organisations. LEGATRA( Zambia) has been refused registration several times. LGBT organisations have continued to operate as social gatherings. They are failing to raise money for public awareness campaigns, or to start a National campaign or fund test cases to challenge the Penal Code and defend the LGBT community. At the moment we are at an impasse.

The majority of LGBT people are in the closet and refuse to be associated with the LGBT movement for fear of victimisation in their homes, schools, colleges or places of work once they are identified as homosexuals. We have an urgent need to help lesbians because they are most vulnerable in Zambian society due to its patriarchal nature. The majority of LEGATRA members are men.

In Zambia we are hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, as is the rest of Africa. We have very few counselling centres, in fact there are only two. We approached the KARA Counselling Centre to ask if they would counsel our members. They refused. They said that lesbians and gay men should be counselled by other gay people. They seem to have the idea that homosexuality is catching, a view shared by the majority of Zambian society.

A lot of gay men have been arrested and charged under the Penal code of Zambia, though after a great deal of publicity the cases are usually dropped or settled out of court. The courts throw many of these cases out of court for lack of evidence and usually the parties concerned agree on terms of payment after one has taken the other to court.

The president of LEGATRA has been very badly attacked twice. Both incidents happened last year. One incident was at a seminar in Siavonga, a CIVITAS meeting. The second was in Lusaka. That attack has seriously injured one of his eyes. There have been numerous occasions when gay men have been set upon by people and just attacked.

Transgendered people are also targeted. Some transgendered people have been publicly undressed to ascertain their gender. They are beaten, made fun of and generally ridiculed and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Zambians are generally not very militant people and faced with multiple hostilities the LGBT community closes rank. LEGATRA finds it very difficult to organise the LGBT community, as they live in perpetual fear of their lives.
Author: Regina Numwa


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