Nineteen leading LGBT and human rights groups have called on President Obama to use the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit to highlight the plight of LGBT Africans.
The groups said in a letter to the president that in keeping with the theme of next month’s summit, “Investing in the Next Generation,” particular attention should be given “to the rights and opportunities of the next generation of Africans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).”
They noted: “Unfortunately, across much of the African continent today, the contributions of LGBT communities are denied or denigrated; their relationships and organisations are criminalised; and hostile political rhetoric seeks to deny their rightful place in African society.”
Obama has been criticised for inviting the heads of anti-gay countries to the Washington DC event, including Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, just weeks after imposing travel restrictions on that country over its Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The summit will see other senior African leaders attending, including Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan who, along with Museveni, approved draconian anti-gay legislation earlier this year.
Homosexuality remains illegal in 37 African countries and those found guilty can face severe penalties including life imprisonment and in some cases even the death penalty.
“Given how some African governments deny the rights of their LGBT citizens, and the unique role that civil society plays in defending those rights, we urge you to include civil society voices in the official meeting of African leaders during the summit,” the groups asked Obama.
They argued that the economic themes of the conference also provide “an opportunity to emphasise that homophobia, transphobia and related forms of intolerance have economic costs, including to the trade and investment environments in emerging markets.”
The organisations warned that “‘Brand Africa’ is suffering in the eyes of fair-minded consumers in the United States and around the world.”
The groups expressed their gratitude for Obama’s leadership in recognising the rights of LGBT individuals in the US and for his administration’s support of the rights of LGBT citizens abroad.
“We trust you will use the opportunity of the Africa Leaders Summit to advance these commitments to human rights and human dignity for all,” they said.
The groups behind the letter include Amnesty International, The Council for Global Equality, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.