African law and the rights of sexual minoritiesWestern universalism and African resistance

Authored by: Nicholas Kahn-Fogel

The Routledge Handbook of African Law

Print publication date:  November  2021
Online publication date:  November  2021

Print ISBN: 9780815350682
eBook ISBN: 9781351142366
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



The majority of African countries criminalize same-sex sexual intimacy. African leaders frequently defended such laws by characterizing homosexuality as a foreign blight, a neocolonial construction imposed on Africa by the West. Likewise, large majorities of Africans believe homosexuality to be unacceptable. Meanwhile, Western human rights advocates have pointed to historical and anthropological records in asserting that homosexuality is a feature of African life. These advocates also note that laws proscribing homosexual activity are the true Western imposition, because it was colonial governments that originally promulgated the anti-sodomy laws. Proponents of sexual minority rights in Africa also appeal to the principles of autonomy and equality at the heart of international human rights law and enshrined in the constitutions of all modern democracies, including those in Africa. Many agree that these appeals have often been counterproductive, spurring vigorous enforcement of otherwise dormant laws in some countries and leading to the enactment of new laws detrimental to sexual minorities in others. This chapter provides an overview of the state of African law regarding the rights of sexual minorities and attempts to reconcile the competing narratives offered by many African leaders, on the one hand, and rights advocates for sexual minorities on the other.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.