LGBTQ+ rights in Africa 2023: Progress and setbacks

by Muhammed Akinyemi
Tuesday, 12 December 2023 01:00 GMT

People march in celebration of LGBTQ+ rights at the annual Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 28, 2023. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

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Here are the key developments for LGBTQ+ rights in Africa in 2023

By Muhammed Akinyemi

LAGOS, Dec 12 (Openly) – Across Africa, while court verdicts ensured rights for LGBTQ+ people in Kenya and Namibia, countries such as Uganda and Ghana doubled down on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

The year began with 32 of 54 African countries criminalising LGBTQ+ people, according to rights group Human Dignity Trust. Going into 2024, that number is down to 31.

Here are the significant updates from 2023.

Mauritius: The island country's highest court decriminalised same-sex relations, striking down a colonial-era law dating back to 1898.

Kenya: The east African country's Supreme Court in February affirmed the right of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to register as NGOs.

Following the ruling, opposition member of parliament Peter Kaluma presented a bill to parliament in May that would effectively undo the Supreme Court's decision by limiting LGBTQ+ people's rights of assembly, expression and demonstration. The bill is still in parliament and has not yet been passed.

Namibia: The Supreme Court recognised same-sex marriages conducted outside the southern African country. In October, arguments were heard by Namibia's Supreme Court in a case challenging the constitutionality of laws banning sodomy and related offences. The court will deliver a judgment in May 2024.

Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni signed into law one of the world's toughest anti-LGBTQ laws in May, including the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality". The law allows for life imprisonment for certain offences involving same-sex intercourse, 20-year sentences for "promotion of homosexuality" and up to 10 years for attempting to commit same-sex acts.

Ghana: The west African nation is poised to follow Uganda in enacting strict anti-LGBTQ+ legislation after its Supreme Court rejected an appeal to prevent the legislature from passing the bill into law. The prospective legislation, first introduced in 2021, will criminalise same-sex relations and transitioning gender, while advocating for LGBTQ+ rights could lead to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Nigeria: Africa's most populous country saw two mass arrests within three months in which a total of 145 people were detained for attending what authorities said were gay weddings.

Tunisia: An appeals court in January dropped the protracted prosecution of a gay rights activist, known as Daniel, ruling the case inadmissible due to procedural irregularities. Tunisia retains anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that continues to be used against LGBTQ+ people and activists in the country.

This story is part of a series supported by HIVOS's Free To Be Me programme

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(Reporting by Muhammed Akinyemi; Editing by Sadiya Ansari and Jon Hemming. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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