The law, like the suburban American house, is designed to order a particular pattern of relationships, many of them oriented around the heterosexual nuclear family. For real people in contemporary circumstances to inhabit the house the law built, one has to find side doors and discreet corners, while the dominant space changes little and the façade remains unaltered. The two big L.G.B.T.-rights Supreme Court victories that came before Bostock—Windsor and Obergefell—did exactly that: they carved out a place for monogamous same-sex couples who want to marry (statistically, these are more apt to be white middle-class people like the plaintiffs) in the house of the American nuclear family.
Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries. In some countries offenders can be punished with death and in many more with harsh jail sentences. Recent developments in Uganda and Malawi have attracted international attention and once more underlined the precarious human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people on the continent.
Fuelled by homophobic utterances of political and religious leaders, opposition to homosexuality is often embedded in tradition, religion and culture. Ignoring factual history, non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities are dismissed on the basis that they are Western imports and “un-African”.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation has aimed to empower LGBTI organisations to participate in public life and express the concerns of LGBTI people in the region for many years. It is hoped that this issue of Perspectives will help LGBTI activism in its struggle towards changing Africa into a continent where LGBTI people enjoy the full range of human rights.
What is clear from the articles gathered here is that despite the myriad of challenges and hostile environment there is an ongoing engagement and growing movement towards equality for LGBTI people throughout the continent. So while there may be a long journey ahead, we remain optimistic.