AMSHeR Statement on the International Human Rights Day – 10 December 2014

 

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 Johannesburg – On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, when the world takes time to celebrate Human Rights and reminds of the importance to uphold the values they entail, the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] joins the rest of the international community to reaffirm the universal, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights.

Human rights are rights that each individual is entitled to simply as a human being. They are enshrined in the international Bill of Rights, which has been signed and ratified by the majority of African states and restated in many similar ways within the national laws and policies. They impose binding obligations on State Parties, which are duty-bound to adopt protective laws and take all necessary measures to end all forms of discrimination, including violence and other human rights violations based on sexuality, gender identity and expression.

AMSHeR condemns the increasing incidents of violence and systematic attacks by States and non-state actors based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which are exacerbated by discriminatory laws and policies across Africa such as those passed this year in Nigeria, Uganda and The Gambia, resulting in harsh violence and unfair discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] individuals.

We joined a host of civil society organisations in Africa and across the world to commend the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights – the human rights body of the African Union – for adopting Resolution 275 on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The Resolution expressly and strongly urged States to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by State or non-state actors, including by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims. The Resolution also calls on ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities, including on the rights of sexual minorities.

Contrary to these and similar calls by the international community through the United Nations’ Human Rights Council – through Resolution 27/32 as a follow-up to Resolution 17/19 of 17 June 2011– some African countries are passing even harder laws against non-conforming sexualities and gender identities. One of the most concerning aspect of these laws is the trend to criminalisation not only of same-sex practices but also sexual identities. These laws give a green card to the law enforcement agents and non-state actors to arrest and detain people perceived or known to engage in same-sex loving, regardless of any act the may have committed. They establish societies of fear, suspicion and blatant violations of individual rights and freedoms to have control over one’s body and sexuality.

According to Mr Berry D. Nibogora, AMSHeR’s Policy and Law Specialist, “Resolution 275 unequivocally highlights the responsibility of African States to protect sexual and gender minorities, and to guarantee an enabling environment for the enjoyment of rights. One area where we clearly see the cost of the failure of States in this regard is the disproportionate HIV burden among sexual and gender minorities. These discriminatory laws and policies impact heavily on national and regional HIV responses by denying access to appropriate HIV and related services to those who need them the most.”

AMSHeR calls on states to fully implement Resolution 275 by taking appropriate measures to end all forms of violence and discrimination targeting persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We also commend efforts by States like Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, which dispassionately have started to take positive steps in providing protection to LGBTI people by reaffirming their freedom of association and criminalizing all forms of unfair discrimination, including hate speech, indirect and direct discrimination, and call other states to follow these good examples.

  • Download the full text of Resolution 275
  • Download a copy of the AMSHeR Report – Violence Based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa

 

For further information, contact the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR]:

Kene C. Esom – Director of Programmes

+27711 482 9201 or kene@amsher.net