On Jan 24, 2013 Identity Kenya published this excellent editorial: THINK ABOUT this; 38 of Africa’s 54 countries have legislation that criminalize gay sex with countries such as Sudan, Somalia and proposed legislation in Uganda punishing homosexual acts by death.
There is no African country that has taken steps to decriminalize homosexual conduct to date, in the inverse; more than 50% of African states have taken political and legal steps to legislate stiffer penalties against homosexuality with some even introducing criminalization legislation where none existed. New legislation was passed in Burundi in 2009, to criminalise same sex relations for the first time in the country’s history.
Most laws prohibiting sex between people of the same sex are not very effective in preventing such sex from taking place. But these laws do create enormous obstacles for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to come out, to meet potential partners and to develop relationships.
These laws create scope for blackmail and extortion, they generate fear for exposure, they promote the idea that anti-homosexual discrimination is justified, they encourage thinking that anti-homosexual violence is not so bad, and they portray homosexuals as criminals. These legislative sanctions have occasioned human rights violations across Africa characterized by harassment, humiliation, extortion, arbitrary arrests, judicial violence imprisonment, torture, hate crimes and honour killing on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Such violations or fear thereof have forced many self identifying or presumed LGBTI persons to flee their homes seeking safety in neighbouring countries or other safer countries in Europe or America.
Many LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees fleeing such situations find no relief as situations in countries of origin often mirror those of asylum. In many places, they may not be granted refugee status based on persecution on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity owing to the fact that most refugee hosting African countries such as Kenya and Uganda do not interpret the 1952 UN convention relating to the status of refugees (which they have ratified) to include LGBTI refugees as beneficiaries.
As such, third country resettlement remains the only recourse for LGBTI refugees in East Africa. But while they wait this resettlement, pervasive homophobia in East Africa, sanctioned with homophobic rhetoric by the religious and political elite has forced LGBTI refugees to live in the extreme margins of society.
They face systemic homophobia and rejection by their own communities in camps, as well as frequent physical and sexual attacks, arbitrary arrests, expulsion houses and xenophobia. In the context of criminalization in Kenya, most LGBTI asylum seekers do not cite their sexuality as the primary reason for flight in their refugee claim; instead they allude to other political, social or ethnic issues as the cause of their insecurity. For some, the resultant exclusion presents livelihood challenges with many Lesbians, Bisexuals and Gays forced into survival sex.
While most refugee agencies do offer assistance and protection for refugees, LGBTI refugees cannot rely on this system of protection, as the security mechanisms frequently embody the same homophobic attitudes which exist in countries of origin and asylum. Continued