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African Lesbians Fight for Decriminalization

On Tuesday, African lesbian groups called on African governments to stop treating gays and lesbians like criminals. The demands of the lesbian women came as the Coalition of African Lesbians began their conference to discuss the discrimination of lesbians and gays across the continent. Governments in the largely conservative continent have continued to institutionalize homophobia.

According to the April 2007 International Lesbian and Gay Association report, “Thirty-eight of the 85 U.N. members that outlaw homosexuality are in Africa.

Senegal, one of the countries that criminalizes homosexual acts, punishes homosexuality by 5 years in prison or with a hefty fine, as stated in the Senegalese Criminal Code.

Many African politicians continue to perpetuate homophobia in their rhetoric. BBC News reports that President Robert Mugabe, of Zimbabwe, has attacked homosexuality by describing it as a Western import and gays as “worse than dogs and pigs.”

Fikile Vilakazy, the lesbian group’s director and conference spokeswoman, told Reuters, “Our main goal is that lesbian and homosexuality can no longer be seen as a criminal offense. You should not be arrested or charged for how you use your own body.”

Sources:

The Times 02/27/08; BBC News 02/27/08; Reuters 02/26/08; International Lesbian and Gay Association 02/14/08

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