Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to Deborah Ewing at or Shireen Ragunan at

No later than 23rd April 2018

Agenda has been at the forefront of feminist publishing in South Africa for the past 30 years and raises debate around women’s rights and gender issues. The journal is designed to promote critical thinking and debate and aims to strengthen the capacity of both men and women to challenge gender discrimination and injustice. The Agenda journal is an IBSS/SAPSE accredited and peer-reviewed journal.

Conceptual Rationale

This edition of Agenda Journal is themed LGBTIQ+ Rights and Increased Gender-Based Violence in Africa. The Editors seek contributions that deepen understanding of the drivers and impacts of violence against people identifying or perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or gender non-conforming (LGBTIQ+), and that explore effective responses.

Being out, or outed, as LGBTIQ+ in Africa can be fatal. In Mauritania and Sudan, and parts of Somalia and Nigeria, people can be sentenced to death for failing to conform to norms of gender identity and sexual orientation. In thirty-eight countries in Africa[1], homosexuality is regarded as a crime and is punishable by imprisonment. Even in countries where homosexuality is legal, LGBTIQ+ people have been murdered and face frequent threats and abuse.

Diversity of gender identity, sexual orientation and sexuality has always existed but male and female binaries, and the attachment of fixed gender norms to biological sex, have been imposed worldwide. The extent and degree to which sexual and gender minorities were embraced, accepted, vilified or excluded in pre-colonial African societies are under-researched. However, in recent years, government officials, religious and community leaders, and media, from several African nations have stepped up attacks on sexual and gender minorities. They have declared behaviour and expression that depart from contemporary norms ‘un-African’, or, in the context of evangelical religious orthodoxy, ‘ungodly’.

Despite all the evidence supporting a spectrum of human gender and sexuality, homosexuality is still decried in some quarters as a Western import, an aberrant lifestyle choice, or a mental health disorder. Ironically, African governments often use colonial legislation to discriminate against and prosecute individuals who challenge heteronormativity. [2]

In some settings, sexual and gender minorities who suffer violence are not viewed as victims of prejudice. Rather, abuse is tolerated as a ‘corrective’ measure. In South Africa, which has progressive and inclusive human rights policy and legislation, hate crimes persist. Research published in 2016[3] found that more than half the LGBT people surveyed had experienced discrimination at school and 44% in daily life, on grounds of sexual orientation. The study also found that 41% of participants knew someone who had been murdered because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Research from 2017 indicates that the very people who are supposed to protect individuals against discrimination and violence are implicated in perpetuating the prejudice that leads to ‘social licensing’ of hate crime. South Africa has, as a result of long, intensive lobbying by civil society, a hate crimes working group and a Hate Crimes Bill. The Bill is mired in controversy, particularly over the inclusion of a sweeping clause on hate speech, with provision for punishment by lengthy imprisonment, which is opposed both by human rights and homophobic groups.[4]

There has been progress by LQBTIQ+ activists towards securing their rights to freedom of expression and association, to access to health and other services, and protection against discrimination. However, incidents of persecution, prosecution, assault and murder in many countries seem to reflect a backlash against individuals who do not conform, who are no longer willing to live their lives in denial of their identity and feelings, and who are standing up for the basic human rights guaranteed in international, if not domestic, law.

In patriarchal societies, any effort to disrupt male cisgender heterosexual power or privilege is vigorously opposed. Socio-cultural, religious, institutional and legal barriers to gender equality are erected and reinforced. Gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender/transsexual, and intersex people are often perceived as challenging natural orders, cultural norms, values and beliefs, when in fact they are breaking taboos and stereotypes that exist to preserve privilege.[5]

The journey towards understanding and accepting the diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in Africa has been long and continues. Agenda has focused on these issues for many years, with an edition on Violence in 1993, Realising Rights and Culture: Transgressing Boundaries in 2001, followed by Sexuality in Africa in 2004, Domestic Violence in 2005, a 2006 journal on Homosexuality, which focused on identity, coming out, documenting same sex sexuality and experiences in Africa, decriminalisation in post-apartheid South Africa, hate crimes and working with police. There were journals on Rape in 2007, Family Politics in 2008, and Fifa World Cup: Gender, Politics and Sport in 2010.

In 2018, the chasm between the international human rights framework with its plethora of instruments promising equality and non-discrimination, and the lived experience of LGBTIQ+ people in Africa and across the world requires responses that address deeply held beliefs and entrenched practices. There are examples from across the continent illustrating how governments have exerted and responded to pressure from within and outside their countries to enact or repeal legislation, and to enforce or resist using it. There are also many instances reflecting how LGBTIQ+ individuals and communities confront, navigate or avoid legislated and social discrimination[6].

The notion of interdependence is central to African cosmology[7] According to Lovemore Mbigi (2005) ‘the spirit of African consciousness is characterised by the values of connectedness, harmony, compassion and empathy and a respectful relationship with creation’[8]. The concept of Ubuntu, meaning a person is a person through other people, has been promoted as a guiding principle in South Africa’s emergence from colonialism and apartheid and efforts to establish a free, just, non-racial society. These philosophies are at odds with exclusion, discrimination and violence. While such contradictions are found in all societies, the persistence of and justifications for gender-based violence against LGBTIQ+ identifying – or identified – people require deep interrogation of its roots and how they may be dislodged. Contexts are diverse and layered.

Sida defines gender-based violence as “any harm or suffering that is perpetrated against a woman or girl, man or boy and that has a negative impact on the physical, sexual or psychological health, development or identity of the person. The cause of the violence is founded in gender-based power inequalities and gender-based discrimination.”

This edition of Agenda aims to present a range of perspectives and experience on the origins and manifestations of gender-based violence against LGBTIQ+ people in Africa, approaches to preventing it and ensuring protection and redress for survivors, and changing attitudes of perpetrators and society.

Contributions are sought that address relevant aspects of this topic, including, but not limited to:

  • LGBTIQ+ experiences of and responses to acceptance and prejudice, respect and violation of rights, in relation to SOGI;
  • LGBTIQ+ identities and intersectional activism for an end to prejudice, discrimination and violence;
  • Socio-cultural, religious and political drivers of violence against LGBTIQ+ people, with reference to the influence of religious and political extremists;[9]
  • Needs for and access to psycho-social support, health and other services, including the criminal justice system, among LGBTIQ+ individuals and their families and friends;
  • Perceptions of gender, gender roles and identities, sex and sexuality, and sexual orientation and relationships in different African locations and contexts over time, particularly in relation to pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial attitudes and practices;
  • Socialisation and licensing/ prevention/ censuring of GBV against LGBTIQ+ people in different sites:
    • Home -responses of intimate partners and family
    • schools and tertiary institutions–issues of identity, expression, dress in relation to rights and decolonisation (educator and learner perspectives)
    • clinics, police stations, and other service sites –systemic failures and individual successes
    • the community at large – creating and disrupting norms
    • religious, cultural and political institutions – power and privilege
  • The role of religious, cultural, traditional and political leaders in condoning or condemning violence against LGBTIQ+ people and promoting or restricting rights;
  • Law and policy –tools for accountability, for discrimination, or smokescreens for neglect?
  • Media coverage of LGBTIQ+ rights and violations – reflecting reality or participating in prejudice? Making reference to cases of outing (eg Uganda), harassment (eg Tanzania), rape (eg South Africa), prosecution (eg Malawi, Mauretania), persecution (eg Egypt[10]);
  • The arts – as media for healing, sensitising, confronting and engaging people on issues of SOGI and violence (reference for example the movie Inxeba about the concept of Xhosa manhood, homosexuality and men who have sex with men, and Botswana’s only LGBT themed theater festivalthe Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, and the backlash against such work);
  • Sport & Recreation – Violence on the bodies of lesbians and intersex communities in sports and other recreational activities (e.g. the ‘Womanising’ of Banyana Banyana and the treatment intersex and transgender athletes)[11].

Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and experiential), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts.

[1]Any same-sex sexual conduct is outlawed in: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

[2] See Thabo Msibi. ‘The Lies We Have Been Told: On (Homo) Sexuality in Africa’. Africa Today, Volume 58, Number 1, Fall 2011 pp. 54-77

[3]Hate Crimes against Lesbian‚ Gay‚ Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in South Africa. OUT. 2016.

[4] Article by Zia Wasserman, research consultant at Sonke Gender Justice, March 2017, accessed on 27 Feb at

[5] See Vasu Reddy. ‘Homophobia, human rights and gay and lesbian equality in Africa’. Agenda, 16:50, 83-87, DOI: 10.1080/10130950.2001.9675997. 2012

[6]A significant court case started on 23 February 2018 in Kenya, which could lead to the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the repeal of unconstitutional colonial era legislation. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, the government has resisted both repealing and implementing homophobic legislation.

[7] See Leonard TumainiChuwa. African Indigenous Ethics in Global Bioethics: Interpreting Ubuntu. Springer. 2014.

[8] Lovemore Mbigi. The Spirit of African Leadership. Randburg: Knowledge Resources. 2005

[9]Eg extremist evangelical groups such as United for Life in Ethiopia

[10]Homosexuality is de jure legal in Egypt but has been criminalised, particularly since 2000 (as evidenced by the case of the Cairo 52). Persecution continued after the 2011 revolution, a survey in 2013 found 95% of respondents believed homosexuality was unacceptable (Pew Research Centre. “The Global Divide on Homosexuality.”pewglobal. 4 June 2013. 4 June 2013) and as recently as Sept 2017, concert goers were charged with debauchery, for waving a rainbow flag, and tortured.

[11] For a discussion and further references on these issues see

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap