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Europe-Africa meeting in Lisbon

in PORTUGAL, 07/12/2007

African and European LGBT organizations call on all States to fight homophobia and to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles

Homophobic laws are still in place in many African states, violating the fundamental rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people. On the occasion of the Europe-Africa meeting in Lisbon, Pan Africa ILGA, (African region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), ILGA-Europe and ILGA together with a number of human rights organizations call on European and African governments to clearly state that LGBT rights are human rights and to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles, which are an authoritative compilation of those fundamental rights.

Pan Africa ILGA, ILGA-Europe and ILGA are calling on those African states that still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults to abolish those laws, which are in clear contravention of international human rights law.

Today, no less than 38 African states still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults, thus institutionally promoting a culture of hatred.

The strong stigma against MSM makes it even more difficult to discern the factors associated with the transmission of HIV between persons of the same sex. This stigma drastically limits the access of these persons to HIV services. The epidemic develops in the shadows amongst them. Prevention for this group is almost non-existent, while, at the same time, the rate of HIV infection is much higher - as much as five times higher - amongst MSM than amongst the general population.

On May 2007, a report on State Homophobia in Africa was launched in Johannesburg, during the first African regional conference of ILGA. The collection of laws presented in this report is an attempt to show the extent of State homophobia in Africa.

Provisions against sexual activity between consenting adults have been found to constitute a clear violation of international human rights law (see information below on the state of international human rights law in this area).

Although many of the countries listed in the report do not systematically implement those laws, their mere existence reinforces a culture where a significant portion of the citizens need to hide from the rest of the population out of fear. Our organizations urge African States and their partners to clearly show their strong will not to accept this situation anymore and to broaden their defense of human rights to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex citizens in their respective countries.

Launched in March 2007, the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity identify the binding human rights standards with which governments must comply to ensure the respect of LGBT people’s fundamental rights

The Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights issues relevant to sexual orientation and gender identity issues around the world - whether it's a challenge to colonial criminal laws in India, proposed discriminatory legislation in Nigeria, the murder of a transgender activist in Argentina, responding to police abuses in the US, addressing violence against métis in Nepal, the banning of a Pride march in Russia, exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity issues from European school curricula, so-called "corrective" rape and punitive violence directed against lesbians in countries around the world, with impunity for the perpetrators - the Principles make clear that these are human rights abuses in violation of international law and that the international community must respond.

At the moment, the Principles have been adopted by judges, academics, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures, members of treaty bodies, NGOs and others. It would be a major step forward for human rights protection if, on the occasion of their summit, European and African states adopted these principles as their new guide-lines to challenge homophobia and to assure the protection of fundamental rights to all their citizens.

More information is available on http://africa.ilga.org and www.ilga-europe.org and www.ilga.org
Contact: 00 32 502 24 71

ILGA, The International Lesbian and Gay Association, is a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people everywhere. Founded in 1978, it now has more than 600 member organisations. Every continent and over 90 countries are represented. ILGA is to this day the only global non-governmental community-based federation focused on fighting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression as a global issue.

Pan Africa ILGA brings together LGBTI activists from 16 countries in Africa and recently elected a board with representatives from all five African regions (Northern, Western, Central, Eastern and Southern): Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa.

ILGA-Europe is an NGO with ECOSOC consultative status that is also recognized by the EU, COE and OSCE

Background on International Human Rights Law and laws that criminalize consensual same sex acts:


In Toonen v Australia, the UN Human Rights Committee in March 1994 confirmed that laws criminalizing consensual same-sex activity violate both the right to privacy and the right to equality before the law without any discrimination, contrary to articles 17(1) and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee further considered that such laws interfere with privacy rights, whether or not they are actively enforced, and “run counter to the implementation of effective education programmes in respect of HIV/AIDS prevention” by driving marginalised communities underground. The UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed this position on many occasions, either urging States to repeal laws which criminalize consensual same-sex activity or commending them for bringing their legislation into conformity with the Covenant by repealing such provisions.

This position is consistent with other regional and national jurisprudence, including decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

The Yogyakarta Principles (see information above) are clear in stating that so called “sodomy laws” as exist in 38 countries in Africa are a violation of international human rights law:

Principle 2 of the Yogyakarta Principles affirms the right of all persons to equality before the law without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and specifically confirms the obligation of States to “repeal criminal and other legal provisions that prohibit or are, in effect, employed to prohibit consensual sexual activity among people of the same sex who are over the age of consent, and ensure that an equal age of consent applies to both same-sex and different-sex sexual activity.”

Principle 6 of the Yogyakarta Principles affirms the right of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to the enjoyment of privacy without arbitrary or unlawful interference, and confirms States’ obligation to “repeal all laws that criminalise consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex who are over the age of consent, and ensure that an equal age of consent applies to both same-sex and different-sex sexual activity.” The Principles also call on States to “ensure that criminal and other legal provisions of general application are not applied to de facto criminalise consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex who are over the age of consent.”

On occasion of the Lisbon summit Pan Africa ILGA, ILGA-Europe and ILGA are calling on those African states that still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults to abolish those laws, which are in contravention of international human rights law.

Signatories

Philipp Braun & Rosanna Flamer-Caldera
ILGA International Lesbian and Gay Association

Patricia Prendiville
ILGA Europe

Danilo Da Silva & Linda Baumann
Pan Africa ILGA

Philippe Colomb
Solidarité Internationale LGBT

Associação ILGA Portugal - Portugal
Centre LGBT Paris IDF (CGL Paris) - France
Changing Attitude Nigeria - Nigeria
GALZ – Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe
Homosexualités et Socialisme (HES) - France
Interassociative lesbienne, gaie, bi et trans (Inter-LGBT) - France
Jeunessse camerounaise - Cameroon
La commission LGBT des Verts - France
L'Autre Cercle Ile de France - France
Luzau Basambombo - Correspondent Tels Quels in Africa - Belgium
Seta ry – LGBT Rights in Finland
Skeiv solidaritet/Queer solidarity - Norway
SOS Homophobie - France
The English-speaking Gay Group - Belgium
The LesboHomogroep of the AOb (Education Trade Union) – The Netherlands
"WARNING (Prévention VIH et santé communautaire) - France

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