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Voices for Equality

Of the 69 countries around the world that still criminalize same sex relationships, 32 are in Africa. In many countries, violence and discrimination is a part of the every-day life of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people and LGBT activism is banned.


countries criminalize same-sex relationships


of them are in Africa

But there has been significant progress.

Just in the past five years, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and the Seychelles have all decriminalized consensual same sex conduct. In South Africa, the Government has launched a new push to tackle hate crime.

Across Africa, LGBT-led human rights organizations are at work, demanding further reforms, including protection from discrimination and greater access to healthcare and education.

In recent years, LGBT communities in Africa have come together to demand equal rights and fair treatment.

In Africa, as elsewhere, LGBT allies are playing a vital role – at times facing hatred and stigmatization for speaking out in support of their fellow LGBT Africans. Their courage and commitment is a great inspiration.

We asked leading figures from across Africa to lend their voices for the human rights of LGBT people.

The result is this unique series of short video testimonials and e-postcards from some of the continent's most inspiring and influential leaders in their respective fields.

Among the allies featured here are a former chief justice, a religious leader, a popular musician and activist, and a criminal defense lawyer. Each speaker brings their own distinctive perspective to conversations now unfolding in many African countries about sexual orientation, gender identity and LGBT inclusion.

Please take a moment to watch the videos and scroll through the e-postcards in the carousel after it. You can help us to amplify these voices for equality by sharing any (or all!) of the individual videos and images, below, on social media.

Willy Mutunga
(former Supreme Court Justice)

Dr. Willy Mutunga was a young law lecturer at the University of Nairobi in 1980 when he was arrested and imprisoned on politically-motivated charges. Here he talks about how that experience shaped his activism, bringing him into contact with marginalized groups, including LGBT people, and strengthening his belief in the power of solidarity. Dr. Mutunga went on to help found the Kenyan Human Rights Commission and was later appointed to the Supreme Court of Kenya, where he served as chief justice and president of the Court.

Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti is a Nigerian musician and human rights champion and son of legendary musician and political activist Fela Kuti. Here he takes us on a visit to Kalakuta Museum a cultural center on the site of the Kalakuta Republic commune and recording studios founded by Fela Kuti in the 1970s — and speaks about the continued relevance of his father’s vision of inclusion and equality. “I don’t see any difference between gay rights and human rights,” he says. “Anywhere I see oppression, I stand against it.”

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo
(religious leader)

The Right Reverend Dr. Christopher Senyonjo spent 24 years as an Anglican bishop in his native Uganda before founding a center for troubled LGBT youth. Here he talks about the centrality of love to his faith and how he came to work with LGBT youngsters rejected by their own families. “Whatever our culture, whatever our religion, God loves you as you are,” he says. “I find that without love religion means very little to me.”

Alice Nkom
(defence lawyer)

Alice Nkom is a prominent defense lawyer in Cameroon and a campaigner for the decriminalization of same sex relationships. She took up the cause having been incensed by reports of young LGBT people being killed, persecuted and driven to suicide. “Can you tell someone not to be happy?”, she asks. “After all, what are we doing on Earth, what are we looking for? To be happy and to be loved!” Ms. Nkom has faced down a barrage of insults and threats to defend dozens of young Cameroonians charged with gay-related offences. As she says, “This is a fight as noble as fighting for women and all the other fights. It concerns our common humanity.”

And they are not alone…


The champions featured here are living proof of the impact committed allies can have on the struggle for LGBT equality. You don’t need to be LGBT to join the movement – and you don’t need to be prominent or powerful either. You just need to believe in equality and have an open heart.

Here are some ways you can help

At a personal level:

Get informed

Educate yourself about the challenges experienced by LGBT people. Learn the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics (if you’re unsure, check this handy UN Free & Equal fact sheet.)

Protect Victims

If you see a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic attack take place, step forward to defend the victim (safety concerns permitting), help them access any medical care needed, and, with the victim’s consent, share information on what you’ve seen to law enforcement.

Teach others

If you overhear someone making hostile comments about LGBT people, call them out – whether there’s someone LGBT present or not.

Stand Up

If you see evidence of unfair treatment or bias against LGBT people – whether at work or in any other walk of life – report it. If we don’t all challenge discrimination, it will continue.

Be attentive

Above all, listen to your LGBT friends, family members, co-workers – let them help you see the world through their eyes. Be there for them.

At a political level:

Raise your voice

LGBT people need legal protection from violence and discrimination. Most countries still don’t have effective hate crime and anti-discrimination laws in place. Raise your voice, write to your legislator or write to relevant government officials and urge them to act.

Support LGBT Organizations

LGBT-led human rights, cultural and community organizations play a vital role in supporting LGBT individuals, raising awareness of the challenges many of them face, and pressing the case for the legal and policy changes needed to protect their rights. You can support the LGBT community by supporting LGBT organizations – whether as a volunteer, donor, sponsor or partner.

And here are a few things to avoid:

Don’t assume someone is LGBT.

Don’t assume someone is LGBT, and, if they do open up to you about themselves, don’t disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to anyone else without their consent.

Don’t assume someone is straight or cisgender either.

Don’t assume someone is straight or cisgender either – respect for diversity starts by accepting that people are diverse and respecting that fact.

Use whatever names and pronouns they prefer.

When speaking with or about a trans person, use whatever names and pronouns they prefer – “mis-gendering” someone or so-called “dead-naming” them (i.e. using a previous name associated with the gender they were given at birth) is hurtful and hostile.

Don’t ask intrusive personal questions.

Don’t ask intrusive personal questions unless someone invites you to do so. Most people – LGBT people included – don’t welcome being quizzed on their sex lives or their private parts.


Take action


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Show your support by donating to UN Free & Equal’s work for LGBTI equality around the world.

Every little helps, but if you’re unable to donate right now that’s OK. You can still be an ally through your actions.

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