By Rachel Ayeh-Datey

I’m a researcher and writer with a keen interest in LGBTQ+ rights in Africa and the diaspora. Being a queer Ghanaian-British person, I’m acutely aware of the struggles faced by the community and the complex systemic issues that make advocacy work difficult. 

Ghana recently passed a bill that imposes tougher punishments for anyone who identifies as being LGBTQ+ or supports the movement. The bill is not yet signed into law but has sparked protests across the diaspora. This is in line with Uganda’s 2023 anti-LGBTQ+ bill. These examples underscore the need for a collective effort between the continent and the global diaspora to come together and raise awareness about critical issues in this space.

For the latest instalment of Chakula Presents, I moderated a panel that focused on LGBTQ+ Rights in Africa and the Diaspora. The panelists, Vipine Aubeeluck, Ryan Ah Seek, Adeniyi Balogun, Barrister Alice Nkom, and Porscha Allen were from Mauritius, Cameroon, and the UK. Vipine, a Mauritian, is the current treasurer of the Young Queer Alliance, a youth-led advocacy organisation. Ryan is also Mauritian and is the current president of the LGBTQ+ rights organisation Collectif Arc-En-Ciel. Ryan played a pivotal role in winning the case against Law 250, a colonial law that criminalised consensual sex between men. Adeniyi, who is the Refugee Advocacy Lead from the UK-based organisation African Rainbow Family, shared diasporan perspectives. Vice Chair Barrister Alice Nkom is the first woman called to the Bar Association in Cameroon. Barrister Nkom is the former Vice-Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. Porscha is Barrister Nkom’s Senior Advocacy Coordinator.

To open the panel, Barrister Nkom encouraged young audiences to listen keenly to the lessons from their elders and preserve them for sharing with future generations. She stressed the importance of knowing about pre-colonial African ideals as they pertain to the principles of human rights and closed her speech by advocating for pan-Africanism and the importance of working together to uphold dignity and justice for people with disabilities, youth, migrants, lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The discursive elements of the panel began with establishing the context of LGBTQ+ rights in Mauritius and the UK.

Context of LGBTQ+ rights in Mauritius

When asked about the current situation in Mauritius, Ryan gave the backstory on the decriminalisation of Law 250 and his role in it. He felt that even though Law 250 was decriminalised last year, the battle is far from over. As there are no specific laws currently protecting LGBTQ+ people in Mauritius, trans people are not recognised in Mauritian legislation so there is no protection. Ryan explained that while it’s not prohibited to be gay or trans, LGBTQ+ people still regularly face issues in finding employment and housing.    

Vipine shared that governmental challenges make his work at the Young Queer Alliance difficult. The organisation has been trying to establish communication with its politicians for years. He gave instances of writing to various departments such as the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs and not getting responses, which left him feeling discouraged. In 2018, there were homophobic riots against the Pride marches, and complaints about these were ignored by the government. There were also rumours that the government was trying to divert funds reserved for NGOs to their campaigns. 

Vipine also provided insights into life for trans people in Mauritius and reflected on the level of cultural and religious diversity. While there have been some positive actions such as hormone therapy available in public hospitals and fully funded by the government, there are still some major challenges. The Hindu community is more accepting of trans people and even allows them to lead some of the rituals for Hindu celebrations.

Context of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK

Adeniyi talked about the work that the African Rainbow Family does to support LGBTQ African people seeking asylum in the UK. The organisation has secured refuge for many LGBTQ African people who have fled their home countries because of their sexuality. He shared that many of these people arrive in the UK only to face even more discrimination and often find themselves in very vulnerable situations. There’s a negative perception, particularly amongst Africans, that homosexuality is ‘un-African’. There is also a deep sense of loneliness and lack of community for newly arrived refugees in the UK. 

The Home Office, the UK government agency that grants asylum claims in the UK, has policies and processes that are harsh and difficult for African migrants to navigate. Policies such as 'Right to Work' make it hard to find employment, leaving many trapped in the system for long periods and at risk of destitution. Furthermore, the lack of legal aid and LGBTQ+-friendly accommodation exacerbates the process of settling in the UK.

Key moments of tension 

Discussion of the UK’s controversial Rwanda Plan led to key moments of tension. Under the proposal, asylum seekers arriving in the UK would be sent to Rwanda, to have their claims processed. If successful, they could be granted refugee status and allowed to stay in the UK. If not, they will have the option to apply to settle in Rwanda or seek asylum in another "safe third country". But they would not be permitted to seek asylum in the UK again. No one has been sent to Rwanda under this bill yet.

Adeniyi felt that the policy aimed to bar refugees from accessing the UK’s immigration system, which is illegal under international law as every person has the right to seek asylum. He also argued that the policy puts LGBTQ+ people at risk of further persecution in Rwanda, which he views as an unsafe country. Same-sex marriage is currently banned and LGBTQ+ people are not legally protected. He then shared details about the African Rainbow Family’s campaign against the Rwanda Plan called No Pride in Deportation. 

Porscha, based in Rwanda, shared that she has celebrated Pride in Rwanda (as an ally) and that she has never felt unsafe. She emphasised the need to be mindful of potential racist biases in reports that speculate on the safety of some African countries.

Adeniyi responded by stating that both the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights have declared Rwanda unsafe. Both parties agreed to engage further beyond the panel discussion.

Audience Input 

A question was asked about how language can be a barrier to advancing rights for queer people. An audience member referenced gender-neutral languages and wondered if there were any inclusive local languages.

In response, Adeniyi mentioned the theme of the 2024 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference which is “Kwa Umoja, We Rise”. Kwa Umoja is Swahili for unity and togetherness. The African Union has expressed a goal to adopt Swahili as the language for Africa. Adeniyi felt that this could be a step towards a more neutral and unifying language through similar expressions like “Kwa Umoja”.

Another audience member from Botswana advocated for a more collaborative spirit in LGBTQ+ advocacy work and the need to dismantle silos. Botswana decriminalised same-sex sexual acts in 2019 but there has been a surge in opposition by churches. Protests and petitions have been endorsed by Members of Parliament who are meant to ensure the protection of all members of society. The audience member underscored the need to have not just legal decriminalisation but also social acceptance of LGBTQ+ relationships. 

There was overall alignment on the need for more awareness of the work each of the organisations represented, fewer institutional barriers, and more social acceptance of African LGBTQ+ people.  For this to happen, I believe there needs to be more intentionality in seeking African perspectives on LGBTQ+ rights issues on the continent and in the diaspora

Whilst it is hard to influence institutions and change cultural perceptions, through examples of some of the work in Mauritius, it's evident that progress is possible. Dismantling colonial narratives of queerness being inherently anti-African is one that will take a lot of work and time but creating more spaces for conversations like this is a positive step in the right direction.

Resources Shared

UN session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent -

African Rainbow Family Website -

No Pride in Deportation resource -

Report about the Need for Inclusive Home Office Accommodation -

African Rainbow Family Petition -

 Chakula Programme

The Chakula programme is The Africa Centre's series of monthly events, workshops, and dialogues geared towards supporting and empowering Black and African LGBTQ+ communities. The Centre aims to facilitate conversations about the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ communities in Africa and the diaspora and how LGBTQ+ rights issues intersect with other social justice issues. The Africa Centre also aims to platform grassroots movements, organisations, and individuals bringing about tangible change in the lives of LGBTQ+ people on the continent and its diaspora. 

Rachel Ayeh-Datey

Rachel Ayeh-Datey is a Ghanaian-British freelance writer, researcher, and consultant.  She has written articles and pieces of prose which focus on topics such as Black British History, social justice, queer identities, and music. Rachel spends her time between Accra and London.