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Jun 21, 2024, 9:00am EDT
Africa
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Semafor Signals

Namibia overturns law criminalizing same-sex relationships

Insights from Red Pepper, openDemocracy, Democracy in Africa, and Context News

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Opas Onucheyo/Reuters
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The News

Namibia’s High Court struck down two colonial-era laws that criminalized same-sex relationships between men on Friday, declaring them unconstitutional in a landmark win for the southern African country’s LGBTQ+ community.

Namibian activist Friedel Dausab, who brought the case with the support of UK-based organization Human Dignity Trust, hailed the win as a “great day for Namibia,” adding that it would no longer be “a crime to love.”

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Namibia’s ruling bucks broader continental trend

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Sources:  
Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch, BBC, openDemocracy

Last year witnessed a “disturbing regression of progress” on LGBTQ+ rights across Africa, Amnesty International warned in January. Since then Uganda’s Constitutional Court has ruled to uphold the most “abusive and radical” provisions of the country’s 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which introduced the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality,” and in February, Ghana’s Parliament voted to impose jail terms for anyone convicted of even identifying as LGBTQ+, as well as forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups — a bill that is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, though LGBTQ+ Ghanians told openDemocracy their lives had already been severely impacted.

LGBTQ+ rights are often associated with Western imperialism

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Sources:  
Red Pepper , Context News , Democracy in Africa

Crackdowns on LGBTQ+ rights in Africa are increasingly framed in anti-colonial terms, with homosexuality labeled a Western import. But these narratives rely on a distortion of history, insofar as homophobia was primarily introduced to Africa through colonialism, a Ghanaian theologist told Red Pepper. “The British exported their legal systems… imposing them on societies where often consensual same-sex activity did not carry the same social and religious taboos,” the chief executive of Human Dignity Trust said in an interview with Context News. That’s not to say the treatment of gender and sexuality in pre-colonial Africa was uncomplex: But because much historical documentation was done by colonizers themselves, this history is “coloured…[by colonizers’ mores] rather than a “neutral” reflection of our[s],” a columnist argued in Democracy in Africa.

Discrimination may be linked to Christian fundamentalism

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Source:  
openDemocracy

Well-funded evangelical Christian groups from the United States have worked to sow “mass hysteria around homosexuality” in Africa, an expert in Christian fundamentalism on the continent told openDemocracy as part of the outlet’s 2020 investigation into conservative Christians. Their agenda parallels the 19th-century colonial “scramble for Africa,” a Ugandan activist added, in a desperate quest for new spheres of influence amid Western advances in LGBTQ+ rights.

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