Human rights defenders from nearly twenty countries across Africa have gathered in Johannesburg ahead of this week’s Africa Regional Seminar on “Finding Practical Solutions to Address Violence and Discrimination against Persons Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression”.
This unique meeting is one of the largest gatherings of African activists working on issues relating to sexualorientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE). It aims to generate learning among civil society organisations on the lived realities of sexual and gender minorities in different parts of the continent, and to use this knowledge to identify key advocacy priorities in ending violence and discrimination based on SOGIE in Africa.
“As human rights defenders working on gender and sexuality, it’s very important that we work together,” noted Fadzai Muparutsa of the Coalition of African Lesbians. “Before we engage with governments and other state actors, we need to have time and space to consider our diverse lived experiences. We need to understand better how different forms of oppression interact and intersect, particularly in women’s lives,” she added.
Sexual and gender minorities continue to be targets of violence, discrimination and abuse. This violence is often state-sanctioned, in many cases being carried out by police and other state agencies. Discriminatory beliefs are often endorsed by religious and traditional leaders, and given further currency through sensationalist media coverage. Such practices further stigmatise vulnerable communities, and result in people being denied access to medical, legal and other essential services because of their real or presumed sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.