Current Project

Africa’s LGBT communities and the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to “Leave No One Behind”

Program: Population Dynamics & Reproductive Health

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched in late 2015 provide clear guidelines and targets for addressing the root causes of poverty and uniting the world in pursuit of positive change for both people and planet. Strongly grounded in international human rights standards, the SDGs aim for an inclusive world and put economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and the right to development at the core of social progress. The clarion call of the SDGs to ‘leave no one behind’ is especially relevant for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, who continue to suffer violations and remain excluded in national and international development initiatives.

As research shows, LGBT communities continue to present unique socioeconomic, health, and development concerns for many sub-Saharan African countries. They experience high levels of exclusion in some way or another in society; often have little or no grip on the social, economic, and political processes that affect them, and suffer exclusion and violations that go largely un-interrogated and undocumented.

Despite legal and social advances in the past two decades, exclusion and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) remain common. The majority of African countries currently have laws that impact negatively on LGBT communities. For instance, homosexual activity among men attracts the death penalty in Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia, and parts of northern Nigeria; life imprisonment in Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone; and long periods of imprisonment in Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, and Gambia. Further, in Nigeria, heterosexual family members, allies, and friends who support or aid gay and lesbian men and women risk a 10-year jail sentence. Even in South Africa and Cape Verde, where robust constitutional protections guarantee rights for sexual and gender minority, LGBT communities continue to face discrimination and violence.

For these reasons, APHRC is embarking upon research to measure changes in policy frameworks since the introduction of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The research team is led by Boniface Ushie, an associate research scientist. The project is exploring whether and how SDGs-era policymaking and development planning efforts in Nigeria, Togo, and Uganda are creating enduring and inclusive processes of empowerment and poverty reduction. The study is expected to generated evidence on the extent to which key SDGs-era national development action plans and policies in SSA are LGBT-aware and engaging with the particular root causes of LGBT exclusion and marginalization.

Previous research highlights the pervasive violent exclusions and inequities to which punitive laws expose LGBT people in the region, but less is understood about the emerging opportunities offered by global and regional policy documents for addressing SOGI-related exclusion.

While LGBT individuals are not specifically mentioned in the SDGs, emerging analyses point to opportunities for practical actions as countries continue to develop plans for translating SDGs into their national plans. Policymakers in Africa are sometimes sceptical of research on African LGBT communities that is generated from outside the continent. Adding local voices to the understanding of the issues affecting key marginalized groups in the region can facilitate policymakers’ use of research evidence for action and change.


October 2017 – May 2020

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