Delegates at a Maputo conference on Lesbian issues, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called on African governments to end homophobia and repeal anti-gay laws.
“Our main goal is that lesbian(ism) and homosexuality can no longer be seen as a criminal offence,” conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi from South Africa told Reuters. “You should not be arrested and charged for how you use your own body,” she said.
Around 100 people from around the continent are attending the conference, which ends on Friday, in the Mozambican capital. It is hosted by The Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and LAMBDA and is themed “Building Lesbian Feminist Thinkers and Leaders for the 21st century.”
“We might be seemingly a bit lost right now on the African continent, but there’s positive talk,” an unnamed delegate told the BBC. “As Christians we realise that the Bible doesn’t discriminate, it embraces us in our diversity.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has signed a letter, along with 120 other religious leaders, demanding that the Ugandan government take action to end “verbal assaults and legal attacks of your government on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) people.”
Addressed to President Yoweri Museveni, the letter reads: “All religious traditions demand that we care for the neighbour and the oppressed among us and that we uphold the dignity of every person…
“As a moral leader we know that you do not wish to see Uganda citizens suffer unnecessarily, and we are therefore asking you to call an end to the witch hunt against the most vulnerable in your community…”
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, with offenders facing up to five years in prison. Same-sex marriage has also been banned. Various government officials have called for a crackdown on LGBT people.