While there is a general awareness among human rights activists, particularly women’s rights activists, sexual rights and LGBTQQ activists and academics that there is scarcity of information pertinent to the lives of lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, queer and women who have sex with women (LBTQWSW) in West Africa, few have undertaken research projects to document the lives and human rights situation of LBTQWSW. The most common explanations provided are that “lesbians are hard to find, or work with” or that there is no institutional funding for such projects. Consequently, LBTQWSW continue to quietly suffer under social and cultural practices that suppress any alternative expressions of sexual and gender identities that do not fit into traditional expression of femininity.
From April to August 2011, QAYN conducted a five?month research project in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria, in order to critically document the lived realities of lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, queer and women who have sex with women. QAYN worked in Ghana and Burkina Faso, while QAYN’s local partner in Nigeria, Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER), undertook the same process in Nigeria. A group of volunteers engaged in interviews and focus group discussions to uncover the challenges faced and strategies used by LBTQWSW in living their lives as same gender?loving women. This research project was the first of its kind to be designed and conducted by a pan?African lesbian?led group in West Africa.
As this report demonstrates, LBTQWSW in West Africa remain some of the most marginalized, vulnerable, invisible members of the LGBTQQ community in the subregion. Often out of sight, they live within a patriarchal social system and narrowed interpretations of what forms of identity, expression and relationships are morally acceptable. These women exist; their lives and struggles are real – and deserved to be documented.
The Queer African Youth Networking Center (QAYN) is a lesbian?led organization formed in 2010 to establish a wide network of support to promote the safety and well?being of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and questioning West African youth. QAYN is committed to creating an extensive network to promote a healthy and supportive environment where young women can connect, openly discuss issues directly impacting them, exchange information, find relevant resources and affirm their dignity. By developing the leadership of LBTQWSW, QAYN aims to create a supportive LBTQWSW network for young leaders to relate to one another, empower them to advance the issues of sexual rights in the sub?region and foster activism so that they can advocate for a more dignified cultural, socioeconomic and political environment.
The publication is available for download on QAYN’s website, here:
Founder and Director