Homophobic Persecution Rises in Sub-Saharan Africa

Homophobic persecution is surging across sub-Saharan Africa as some governments introduce punishments, such as the death penalty, on those in same-sex relationships, Amnesty International said.

“These attacks -- sometimes deadly -- must be stopped,” Widney Brown, Amnesty’s director of law and policy, said today in a report. “No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with.”

Amnesty said some police officers in Kenya threatened citizens with laws related to same-sex relations so that they could be bribed. In Cameroon, some people arrested for appearing to be gay or lesbian were imprisoned for three years without trial or charge, the London-based human rights group said.

Homosexuality is a crime in 38 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the past five years South Sudan and Burundi have introduced new laws that criminalize same-sex sexual acts, Amnesty said. Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda have bills pending in parliament that seek to increase existing penalties.

“The very existence of laws criminalizing same sex-relations -- whether they are enforced or not -- sends a toxic message that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are criminals and have no rights,” Brown said.

Homosexuals currently face the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and southern Somalia. There is no criminal law against homosexuality in 16 African countries, Amnesty said.

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