By Abeli Zahabu (BTM French Reporter)
ALL AFRICA – May 19, 2008: The gay and lesbian community in Central and West Africa celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) with various activities.
Initiated after the General Assembly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders 18 years ago, IDAHO aims to fight for the recognition of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
This bold action, taken by WHO, does not seem to have translated in equal rights for LGBTI communities since LGBTI people continue to suffer prejudice and discrimination in the world, largely in Africa.
“Being lesbian or gay is risking jail time in 86 countries and death penalty in seven”, says an International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) report on State-sponsored Homophobia.
However, despite discrimination and torture, the LGBTI organisations in Central and Western- Africa acknowledged the significance of this day with a great sense of gratitude.
Alternatives-Cameroun, a Cameroonian LGBTI organisation issued a press statement, informing national media practitioners about the significance of this day and raising awareness.
“It is a fact that media practitioners are more often than not unaware of the plight of LGBTI people. Alternatives-Cameroun wanted to take this opportunity to sensitise the media so that they could inform the general public”, said Steave Nemande of Alternatives-Cameroun.
Alternatives-Cameroun also released a report detailing various cases of imprisonment of LGBTI people. The organisation was actively involved in obtaining their release.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Si Jeunesse Savait – a human rights organisation fighting for the recognition of LGBTI people’s rights – held a special radio programme to raise awareness of the general public on the existence of LGBTI people.
Si Jeunesse Savait also convened a workshop with various human rights organisations and defence lawyers organisations.
“We have noticed that even some human rights organisations do not realise that LGBTI people’s rights are also human rights. We deem it very important that human rights organisations begin to integrate LGBTI people’s rights in their programmes and campaigns”, explained Francoise Mukulu of Si Jeunesse Savait.
In Senegal, the recent wave of arrests of LGBTI people could not allow any major celebration of this year’s IDAHO. “I really thought that water had passed under the bridge and people could be more tolerant towards LGBTI people. Apparently the situation has not changed and LGBTI people cannot come out and celebrate this day”, Jean-Louis Rodriguez of AND LIGEEY who is still in hiding, said sadly.
According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), IDAHO has a special significance this year, as it is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to define a universally applicable and inalienable set of human rights that are the entitlement of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.