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The legal status of same-sex relationships in African countries

While some African countries are silent on the penalties for homosexuality, some other countries have completely outlawed it.

What's the law and punishment for same sex relationships in Africa (Charlotte Mecklenburg Library]

According to Global Citizen, out of the 54 African countries, 22 countries have legalized sexuality.

In the other countries, homosexuality is a crime. In Mauritania, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, it is a crime punishable by death.

Nigeria is especially interesting because in the South, homosexuality is punishable by 14 years of imprisonment, but in the North, it is punishable by imprisonment for up to a year but if he is married, stoning to death (Section 131 Penal Code). Women are not punished similarly. Lesbians are simply flogged.

In 2019, The High Court of Kenya upheld the law criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity. The court held that it is “an effective method to contain the country’s HIV epidemic” In Kenya, LGBTQ folks can spend up to 21 years in jail. In Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, life imprisonment is the maximum punishment.

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In African countries where it is not expressly criminalized, gay people face discrimination.

In the Ivory Coast, the laws against indecency have been used to jail some homosexuals even though it is not expressly a crime. In Egypt, gay men are charged with blasphemy, debauchery and immorality. In Tanzania, condoms and lubricants are banned from LGBTQ health clinics.

Homosexuality is not a crime in these countries, 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.

Angola is the latest country to decriminalise homosexuality, this was done in 2021. Employment protection against people of queer sexual oreintation exists in Botswana, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Seychelles. There is also protection against discrimination in Angola, Mauritius and South Africa.

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South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriages are legal, and this was as far back as 2006. The members of the LGBTQ community are also protected from discrimination in South Africa.

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