Here at AsylumConnect, we are dedicated towards highlighting progress being made both locally and around the world. In this segment, we focus on the African Union and 2016 as the “African Year of Human Rights.”
The African Union was established in 1999 in order to promote further integration of the African Continent and make meaningful strides towards social, economic, and political reform.
This year places special importance on the idea of “coming together.” The issue of LGBTQ+ rights significantly contributes to this theme. As it currently stands, rights protecting individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ are limited. For example, several countries such as Uganda and Nigeria have out-lawed same-sex relationships and imposed anti-gay laws. It is evident that stronger protections and awareness of LGTBQ+ issues are imperative.
The idea of “coming together” is embodied in the message of human rights. Although the African Union recognized the importance of LGBTQ+ rights, concrete actions towards achieving equality are still necessary. I believe one way forward is for the African Union to release a statement on LGBTQ+ issues and identify clear action steps that must be taken. One of the areas that I believe should have more focus is medical treatment for LGBTQ+ individuals. In Africa, stigma and discrimination are rampant. This leads to a wide variety of health problems that often go untreated.
The LGBTQ+ community in Africa is often forced to go into hiding due to severe threats and legal punishment. Mental health often becomes an even greater issue with this type of treatment.
I believe collaboration and unity need to be more heavily emphasized in order for the African Union to be truly successful in its dedication towards human rights. As of now, many countries are in disagreement over LGBTQ+ issues. For instance, Botswana, Kenya, and Zambia pledged to uphold basic freedoms for marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community in Africa. I believe one way to accomplish this is through strengthening unity among legal systems and institutions in the African Union.
I am excited to see this commitment from the African Union as LGBTQ+ stigma is a major barrier. By keeping this conversation at the forefront, I believe the African Union will be able to succeed in uniting the African Continent and upholding basic rights.
We look forward to keeping up with the progress happening in Africa! Many thanks to Olive Musoni, AsylumConnect volunteer translator and African correspondent, for the pictures.
Be sure to look out for future blog posts highlighting members of the AsylumConnect team and their stories. Thank you for your support!