The African Parliamentary Forum on Gender and Sexual Minorities met in-person for the first time in June 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa, following a series of virtual meetings held in 2021 and early 2022. The Forum is organized by UNDP in partnership with the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SOGIE). The Parliamentarian members of the forum are allies and advocates for the inclusion of the rights of LGBTI+ people in policies, laws, and practices across the region, as well as for ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’ in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The meeting, convened by the #WeBelongAfrica Inclusive Governance Initiative, brought together established and aspirant champions of LGBTI inclusion from different countries in Africa to discuss the role of parliamentarians in promoting inclusion and social protection of sexual and gender minorities; share examples of the roles of parliamentarians in promoting LGBTI+ affirming legislation, supporting and protecting human rights; and discuss how parliamentarians can further support each other in their efforts through regional and cross-country cooperation to inspire each other and encourage repealing criminalizing laws on consensual same-sex conduct and/or diverse gender expression and identity.
The meeting also provided an opportunity to hear personal testimonies from key and vulnerable populations, including sexual and gender minorities and other marginalized populations, on how they constantly navigate their lives through criminalized and hostile environments.
During the meeting, a new online community of practice for the Parliamentarian Forum was launched, as well as the Parliamentarians Handbook on Advancing the Human Rights and Inclusion of LGBTI People.
Showing the importance of the forum and the need to learn and be capacitated on SOGIE issues, a Member of Parliament from Zambia attested: “This is the first meeting I have attended, where these issues are being discussed openly and to understand some of the strategies and the lessons learned.”
According to another participant: “Culture plays a big role as well as the public decision. More education is needed about the issue. It is a process that is just beginning, and the international community has a role to play and to assist.”
Following the meeting, there have been positive results observed. In Eswatini, a Member of the Forum called for the recognition of LGBTIQ+ issues in the country and registration of organizations serving minority groups such as LGBTI+ people. Building on momentum, other Members of Parliament have mobilized their peers from Zambia and Zimbabwe to be part of the forum. Across the region, there are signs of progress. Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, and Seychelles recently decriminalized adult consensual same sex relationships. In Seychelles, discussions are underway for the review of the Marriage Act to include the right to form a family and adoption for same sex couples. And Zimbabwe recently decriminalized HIV transmission.