OSISA realises that there is the need to empower the most marginilised people in our communities, such as LGBTI, and contribute to the fostering of inclusive and tolerant societies.
Only two African countries offer some form of protection for sexual minorities: Mozambique and South Africa. The rest have no legislation, repressive or otherwise, regarding sexual minorities, such as Chad, Gabon, Mali, and Madagascar, or impose the death penalty, such as Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria (the north) or hefty sentences ranging from one month to 10 years’ imprisonment, as in Ethiopia and Botswana, or sentences from 11 years to life imprisonment in Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
In the OSISA region, the situation differs from country to country. Just looking at ten of the OSISA countries, we find that Malawi and Zambia have repressive legislation that mandates 11 years to life imprisonment for sexual minorities; Zimbabwe has slightly less severe prison terms, ranging from one month to 10 years. Mozambique recently enacted an anti-discrimination employment policy that includes sexual orientation, and further progressive amendments are expected. South Africa has the rights of all people, irrespective of sexual orientation, enshrined in its Constitution, and various other pieces of legislation and policy, making it one of the world’s most progressive countries regarding the rights of sexual minorities.
In recent years, attention has been drawn to one of many issues faced by LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) people - the rising levels of violence, with the root cause of this violence seeming to be gender based. In addition to gender-based violence, gender inequalities in access to resources are still a significant problem on the African continent.
Of all the sexual minority groups, trans people, as gender non-conformists, experence most of this violence on a regular bases. In most African countries, like for gay men and lesbian women, it is illegal for transgender people to live authentically. The strong belief in rigid sex roles and gender stereotypes on the African continent, supposedly rooted in “African” tradition, forces LGBTI people to live in secrecy and isolation.
LGBTI people experience various challenges to their human rights, which include regular humiliation and harassment in public spaces. There is very limited access to medical care and treatment, as medical and mental health professionals lack the knowledge of how to deal with LGBTI. Unemployment and discrimination faced by those “out” LGBTI individuals who are employed, often lead to the LGBTI person haviing to leave his/her employment. We see across our region trans persons taking up sex work to support themselves. This escalates the vulnerability of especially trans women to HIV.
OSISA realises that there is the need to empower the most marginilised in our communities. For this reason, OSISA created the LGBTI Special Initiative that can specifically focus on LGBTI and together with partner organisations, contribute to the fostering of an inclusive and tolerant society in which LGBTI can feel at home and assert their rights in southern Africa.
As such, OSISA supports initiatives that promote advocacy, networking and capacity building in the following areas:
1. Support LGBTI and broader human rights movement building by strengthening transgender and lesbian leadership and building organisational capacity of:
- National LGBTI, MSM, WSW, T organisations;
- Regional LGBTI organisations; and,
- Strategic mainstream partners working on LGBTI issues.
The capacity of all the partners must be enhanced to enable them to positively contribute to the work done around human rights, health rights, women’s rights, etc. in the communities and countries in which they work.
2. Enhance the strong voice and participation of LGBTI communities in southern Africa in policy and law decision making processes that respond to discrimination and inequalities in the region.
One of the outcomes we foresee is the inclusion and meaningful participation of LGBTI, MSM, WSW and T organisations and groups on policy and decision making bodies like Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs). We also anticipate inclusion and meaningful participation of LGBTI, MSM, WSW and T organisations and groups in policy and decision making processes like HIV and AIDS National Strategic Plans.
3. OSISA and partner organisations to advocate for social-cultural change with regards to LGBTI issues in southern Africa through awareness and sensitisation initiatives targeting:
- Religious leaders and communities of faith;
- Health care providers and institutions;
- Academic institutions;
- Media practitioners and media houses; and,
- Law and policy makers.
The LGBTI Special Initiative will not fund
- Stand alone workshops and trainings;
- Attendance of meetings, conferences and seminars that are not part of the organisational strategy;
- Service provision initiatives;
- Welfare needs of LGBTI; and,
- Purely academic research on LGBTI and/or sexuality.