This project aims at strengthening the capacity of African NHRIs to effectively engage on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) issues as well as the affected communities. The project falls within the mandate of NANHRI and is in line with its strategic objectives which also aim at enhancing the adaptability of African NHRIs to respond to emerging and thematic human rights issues.
Prior to the commencement of the project, NANHRI developed a SOGIE toolkit for the training staff of NHRIs to engage more effectively with SOGIE issues within their jurisdiction. The toolkit is informed by the existing local laws, socio-cultural norms and is linked to national political structures. It is framed in a way that it contributes to the promotion of internationally and regionally recognized human rights standards. The toolkit provides a framework and activities which will be undertaken to engage NHRIs in the project. The toolkit addresses a minimum set of formal democratic rights, of which all citizens of a democratic state are entitled. It also helps to introduce discussions within NHRIs around acts, identities and arbitrary criminalization of persons for their perceived or actual identity rather than for any particular action.
SOGIE Project Activities
On June 2016, a meeting was held Kenya to validate the first draft of the SOGIE toolkit. The validation meeting brought together five NHRIs (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Uganda), a SOGIE reference group and an independent consultant. Intensive information gathering, desk reviews and interviews with relevant persons and NHRIs informed the initial draft of the toolkit.
From January 2017, e-learning courses on the SOGIE for staff from the five NHRIs will commence. This will be followed by face-to-face workshop with participating NHRI staff with technical assistance from the SOGIE reference group. Action plans developed by NHRIs during the e-learning classes/courses and at the end of the workshops will be implemented with support from NANHRI. A mid-term and final evaluation will be conducted to assess whether any marked changes have occurred in the way NHRIs address SOGIE-related violations.
According to the State Sponsored Homophobia Report (ILGA, 2016), 33 states in Africa still criminalise consensual adult same sex acts. Seven states in Africa have propaganda and morality laws that prohibit freedom of expression related to sexual orientation. Sudan, Mauritania, 12 Northern States of Nigeria and Southern parts of Somalia have death penalties.
The existence of such laws promotes discrimination, hate crimes and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender and Gender Non-conforming (LGB-ITGNC) persons. These laws also hinder reporting of human rights violations against LGB-ITGNC persons to relevant authorities and actors. Additionally, appropriate needed responses to these violations by human rights defenders and other allies are rendered inadequate.
To this end, in April 2014, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted Resolution 275 on the Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.
NANHRI began by identifying the capacity gaps that exist in African National Human Rights Institutes (NHRIs) which hinder their ability to work on Sexual Orientation, A project inception meeting was held on the margins of the ACHPR regional workshop on Protection of Persons against Violence and other Human Rights Violations on the basis of Sexual Identity, Gender Identity/Expression organized in South Africa by the Department of International Relations and Coordination and South African Human Rights Commission in March 2016. The objectives of the meeting were to:
- Introduce the NANHRI project to participating NHRIs and other stakeholders present and seek their commitment to participate in the upcoming project
- Gauge the NHRIs institutional capacity and willingness to participate in a long term capacity building project
- Pitch for, and strengthen the re-consideration of funding for the SOGIE project proposal
The two main outcomes of the meeting were:
- Regional SOGIE CSOs committed to support the project especially in constituting the SOGIE Reference Group and providing inputs to the projects materials.
- Over half of the NHRIs committed to participate in the project.
Subsequently, a formal request was sent to NHRIs requesting them to make an expression of interest in the project. Out of the 24 who expressed interest 5 NHRIs were chosen on the basis of their existing engagement with SOGIE issues. They are:
- Ghana Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)
- Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)
- Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC)
- South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
- Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)
Regional CSOs working on SOGIE related matters nominated members to constitute the reference group. The SOGIE reference group comprises of:
- Parents, Friends and Families of African Queers (PSAQ) – South Africa
- Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) – Malawi
- National Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) – Kenya
- Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) – Uganda
- Centre for Popular Education & Human Rights (CEPEHRG) – Ghana