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LGBTQ in Africa - statistics & facts

In many African countries, homosexuality is still a taboo, with society holding conservative views on gender identities and roles. This translates into a considerably high intolerance towards LGBTQ people. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Some other abbreviations have been introduced in recent years to include more ranges of sexuality and gender. Among them, LGBT+ and LGBTQ, where Q stands for queer. Queer describes sexual and gender identities other than heterosexual and cisgender. Heterosexual refers to people attracted to the opposite gender, while cisgender describes a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex at birth. LGBTQ people in Africa face systematic discrimination, legitimated violence, and societal exclusion.

Low acceptance of homosexuality

According to a survey conducted in African countries, most respondents showed high levels of intolerance towards LGBT+ in their vicinity, Senegal being the most intolerant. Nearly all respondents from Senegal stated they would dislike having homosexual people as neighbors. Over 90 percent of respondents declared the same in Liberia, Malawi, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. In a similar study, respondents from four African countries were asked whether they believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Between seven and 14 percent of interviewees from Kenya, Tunisia, and Nigeria answered positively. Nonetheless, these rates have significantly increased in recent years. In South Africa, more than half of people surveyed supported acceptance of homosexuality. South Africa, in fact, represents an exception in the African continent. It is the only country that has legalized same-sex marriage and the adoption of children for same-sex couples. It also the second most-friendly destination in Africa for LGBT+ travelers, after La Réunion.

Legislations and criminalization

The lives of LGBTQ people in the world vary consistently from country to country, and generally among world regions. Worldwide, 71 countries criminalize homosexuality as of 2021. Most of these countries are located in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. A year before, homosexual relations were criminalized in 32 countries in Africa, and in four countries legislations even includes the death penalty. These countries were Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan, and Somalia. On the other hand, some African countries introduced laws to protect victims of discrimination and violence motivated by their sexual orientation. Nine African countries introduced some forms of legal protection against discrimination in employment, while four countries have different legal vehicles to address the violence motivated by sexual orientation. Overall, 22 countries in Africa do not criminalize homosexual acts. These are Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, and South Africa.

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