Gay rights not on AU human rights agenda

2016-07-15 20:42

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Kigali - Equal rights for homosexual people in Africa is not a topic currently on the African Union's agenda because the continental body does not have a common position on it.

AU Commissioner for social affairs Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko told journalists on the sidelines of the AU summit in Kigali on Friday that the AU would not be campaigning around lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersexual rights because it was focusing on child marriages.

When asked about violence against members of the LGBTI community in Africa, Kaloko admitted: "That's not the kind of problem that you can ignore. We are not ignoring the problem. We are just saying at the present moment we don’t have a common African position on LGBTI [rights].

"The issues I'm talking about now [child marriage and female genital mutilation] are the issues that my department is mandated to handle," he said.

These issues were pronounced on in an assembly of AU heads of state, whereas the LGBTI issues were not.

"It is quite possible that at some point in time we will have a position on LGBTI [rights]," he said, when asked about it by journalists.

Girls married off earlier

Homosexuality is criminalised in a number of African countries.

Kaloko said progress was being made in addressing child marriage on the continent since the AU launched its first-ever campaign on the matter two years ago. The extent of the problem has become more apparent as reports of child marriages increase because of a higher awareness of the problem.

He said the effects of child marriage were "as bad, if not worse" than female genital mutilation. He said the cultural, medical and economic impact of child marriage was worse.

"Child marriage is top of the table when talking about harmful traditional practices," he said.

He said girls were being married off earlier in poorer communities, whereas when families were better off, they were more able to afford keeping children at school, which in turn meant girls delayed getting married and getting pregnant.

This year's theme for the AU is human rights, with a specific focus on women's rights. 

Read more on:    au summit  |  rwanda  |  gay rights
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