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By denying the rights of LGBTI people, ACPHR is ‘facilitating the continual criminalisation of LGBTI individuals and is ‘absolutely complicit in the verbal, physical and sexual abuse of LGBTI people which goes unchallenged in country after country,’ write Sokari Ekine and Mia Nikasimo.

The African Commission on Peoples’ and Human Rights’ (ACPHR), denial of observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) is a denial of the rights enshrined in the Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of all Africans who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI). In the denial of rights, the ACPHR effectively removes the citizenship of all LGBTI. If we do not have rights then we are not citizens; if we do not have citizenship then we have been disenfranchised, discarded – we do not exist. But the fact is that WE DO EXIST and there are millions of us. From Algiers to Cape Town, from Dakar to Mombasa, we are everywhere.

We are angry at the grotesque indifference exercised by these charlatans whose misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia due to heteronormativity – whatever the origin – is being unleashed against us. Acting with hysterical fear in the face of a simple request by CAL to hold observer status, the ACPHR – as it represents and discusses issues of importance to all African citizens – is the mark of irresponsibility and shameful viciousness. And of course it is in violation of the treaties and international agreements to which it and its member countries are signatories.

This kind of underhanded attitude towards CAL is insulting; LGBTI people are still being marginalised, our human rights are being refused. We are being denied the duty to monitor what gets said and done in our names. Effectively the ACPHR, in denying CAL and the existence of LGBTI people, is facilitating the continual criminalisation of LGBTI individuals and is therefore absolutely complicit in the verbal, physical and sexual abuse of LGBTI people which goes unchallenged in country after country.

No wonder the church and governments are able to say things like, ‘homosexuality is against our culture’, when what is supposed to be an independent institution with the responsibility of upholding the rights of all Africans according to international treaties and agreements, refuses to acknowledge the existence of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The questions here are immense: On what grounds does the ACPHR act? In whose interests is it acting? How is it that this small group of people are able to hold power over millions of African people and put their lives at risk? Are they merely dancing to the sick orgy dictated by religious and political warlords back home? Or is it their postcolonial heritage which makes them feel justified in exerting quasi powers of exclusion in this way? What progress do they hope to make, piggy-backing deeply held indifferences and prejudices onto a shameful lack of transparency? When will all this hypocrisy end? Have they considered any of these questions or are they just too intransigent to fully consider what is meant by human rights? Are they saying that LGBTI people are not HUMAN? Because, there is no one, not a living soul on this continent who can prove to anyone that LGBTI people are a minority and who are not as firmly steeped in these lands as any other person.

Human rights is not a prescribed in-group of friends, family or close neighbours. Rather:

Human rights are those rights which are held by all human beings. The concept of human rights is a universalist product of the Enlightenment in Europe and the United States, and has since spread around the world...

Recently Indian writer and activist, Arundhati Roy spoke of the Indian state:

‘Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.’

We say pity that 53 African nation states – and we really need to emphasise this because a few people are deciding about the validity of our lives – feel they have to silence the voices of their innocent citizens who ask for justice and the rights shared by their sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers while ‘communal killers, mass murderers, corporate and political scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free’!

We feel strongly about the definition of human rights as quoted above and feel that it is important we voice this. We feel strongly that CAL be given observer status as requested by them and supported by all those who truly believe in an inclusive citizenship and notion of rights, in the light of homo/transphobia must be part of this process. When the African Commission in all its glory seeks to remove the human from human rights, it is risking taking us to a place where some people are human whilst others are not – and we all know what has happened in the past to those not viewed as ‘human’.


* Sokari Ekine is author of Black Looks Blog and Mia Nikasimo is a writer, poet and regular contributor to Black Looks.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.