Justice for LGBTIQ+ Torture in Africa

REDRESS is working to increase accountability for discriminatory torture perpetrated against LGBTIQ+ people in African jurisdictions. 

All over the world, LGBTIQ+ people are beaten and sexually assaulted by State authorities because of who they are. Forms of violence against the LGBTIQ+ 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, research, and consultations with partners in the region, we are aware that similar problems exist in Africa, yet opportunities for LGBTIQ+ torture survivors to obtain justice remain scarce. As part of the project, in May 2022 we published a new report, UNEQUAL JUSTICE: Accountability for Torture Against LGBTIQ+ Persons in Africa, which analyses the violence and torture suffered by LGBTIQ+ people in Africa and the challenges that victims face to secure accountability for these crimes. Further information about the report can be found here.

Building on the African Commission Resolution which dealt with the protection of the LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ people. 

Although some sectors of society have expressed concerns regarding the liberalisation of LGBTIQ+ rights in Africa, there is a much greater willingness to condemn violence perpetrated against LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ torture.  
  • Bring attention to the torture of LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ torture. 
  • Increase access to justice and accountability for LGBTIQ+ torture in Africa by supporting strategic litigation to bring transformative cases on behalf of survivors. 

Which local organisations are we working with? 

Whilst aspects of the project are relevant to many different jurisdictions in Africa, we are working alongside a small number of local organisations on advocacy initiatives relevant to their jurisdictions, and on legal casework to improve LGBTIQ+ torture survivors’ access to justice:

Recent reports and submissions:

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

We are very grateful to Allen & Overy LLP for the generous funding they are providing which helps us to undertake this work.

Photo credit: Marcus Rose/Panos Pictures.