Africa and the contestation of sexual and gender diversity: imperial and contemporary regulation

Tabengwa, M. and Waites, M. (2019) Africa and the contestation of sexual and gender diversity: imperial and contemporary regulation. In: Bosia, M., McEvoy, S. and Rahman, M. (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics. Oxford University Press: Oxford. ISBN 9780190673741 (doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190673741.013.35)

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This chapter considers sexualities and genders in Africa by exploring the relationship between precolonial, colonial, and current forms of regulation. The field of research on sexual and gender diversity in Africa is introduced, including African lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) and queer research, with an emphasis on the need to challenge homogenizing characterizations of “homophobic Africa.” Differences between European colonialisms—such as the British, French, and Portuguese—are noted, with the British as the source of the most extensive legal criminalization of same-sex acts. Regarding recent developments, there is discussion of Uganda as a particularly concerning context, with the Anti-Homosexuality Act briefly passed into law in 2014, though later struck down by that country’s Supreme Court. The passage of Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2014 has similarly reflected homophobic state action. Yet it is also possible to note decriminalizations of same-sex sexual acts in several states including South Africa, Lesotho, the Seychelles, and Mozambique. Examples from Botswana and Kenya are used to discuss the value of strategic litigation in the courts as a way to achieve change. A final section discusses how African international governmental organizations, particularly the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, have become a focus for claims by organizations such as the Coalition of African Lesbians. The recent withdrawal observer status from the Coalition of African Lesbians occurred in a context of pressure from the African Union and exemplifies current tensions and conflicts in the continent.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Africa, sexuality, regulation, LGBT, homosexuality, homophobia, imperialism, colonialism, human rights.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waites, Dr Matthew
Authors: Tabengwa, M., and Waites, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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