An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
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.