Justice for LGBT+ Torture in Africa

REDRESS is working on a new initiative to increase accountability for discriminatory torture perpetrated against LGBT+ people in African jurisdictions. We are looking to work alongside a small number of local organisations on relevant advocacy initiatives, and on legal casework to improve LGBT+ torture survivors’ access to justice. 

All over the world, LGBT+ people are beaten and sexually assaulted by State authorities because of who they are. Forms of violence against the LGBT+ community can amount to torture and ill-treatment, for example violent arbitrary arrests, forced medical examinations, ‘corrective rapes’, beatings and forced humiliation. Survivors are often unable to obtain access to justice, due to legal, societal, and practical challenges. 

In 2020, together with our Peruvian partners, REDRESS achieved a landmark judgment in the case of Azul Rojas Marín v. Peru  before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court found the State responsible for torture (including sexual violence) committed against Azul by Peruvian police officers, treatment inflicted because of her sexual orientation and gender expression. It was the first judgement on discriminatory torture by a human rights court worldwide, with potential impact far beyond Latin America (learn more about our work on Azul’s case here). 

Through our experience, initial research, and consultations with partners in the region, we are aware that similar problems exist in Africa, yet opportunities for LGBT+ torture survivors to obtain justice remain scarce.  

Building on the African Commission Resolution which dealt with the protection of the LGBT+ community from violence (Resolution 275), we are looking at ways to build on the Azul decision in Africa, especially by studying implementation of the decision, including the detailed recommendations made by the Court on best practice in investigating violence against LGBT+ people. 

Although some sectors of society have expressed concerns regarding the liberalisation of LGBT+ rights in Africa, there is a much greater willingness to condemn violence perpetrated against LGBT+ people. We seek to support the work of local organisations working on this area to focus on best practice guidelines on effective investigations, of which there are already some good examples, not least in Latin America. 

What are our aims? 

Through this initiative, we seek to 

  • Affirm the international human rights standard against LGBT+ torture.  
  • Bring attention to the torture of LGBT+ people in Africa and identify policy changes needed to increase access to justice, focusing on the need to investigate such violence and the discriminatory element. 
  • Support the work of local partners to develop legal policy advocacy directed at key stakeholders to promote justice for LGBT+ torture. 
  • Increase access to justice and accountability for LGBT+ torture in Africa by supporting strategic litigation to bring transformative cases on behalf of survivors. 

We look forward to developing further details of these aspects of the project alongside our local partners. 

What next? 

If you are interested in partnering with us or discussing the project, please contact [email protected]. 


Photo credit: Marcus Rose/Panos Pictures.