In numerous regional treaties, African states have affirmed their respect of the right to equality and dignity of all peoples. Most countries have ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, Article 2 of which states that “Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion”.

It also guarantees the “the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination”, which includes the freedom to pursue one’s social development according to whatever policy he or she has chosen.

These articles make no exception for cases where the policy or opinion is linked to expression of sexual orientation, and even if they did, the question remains as to why sexual orientation should be singled out as particularly deserving of exclusion from human rights norms, as compared to other acts that inflict far more damage on society.

Given the realities of discrimination and oppression with which our continent has historically grappled, it is an unfortunate irony that intolerance towards sexual minorities – whose sexual orientation inflicts no harm upon society – has become a state-sanctioned hallmark of our current social politics.

The arbitrary hatred and violation of rights that have been heaped upon LGBTI have no place in a region that has claimed to embrace fundamental human rights principles, to the point of enshrining them in regional African policy and legislation. The African Charter calls on the individual to act in the spirit of “tolerance, dialogue and consultation”, none of which are compatible with homophobia.