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Centre of African Studies: Events


Notes on the Struggle for Sexual Rights in Africa

Notes on the Struggle for Sexual Rights in Africa: Not All is Lost!
Speaker: Professor Marc Epprecht # Queen's University
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Date and Time
13th Jun 2011 16:00 - 13th Jun 2011 18:00
Seminar room 1, CMB, 15a George Square

Not every story out of Africa is doom and gloom, even on topics like “the rise of homophobia.” To be sure, there have been some recent shocking cases of violence and hate-mongering against gays, lesbians, and trans people around the continent. Governments in many countries are meanwhile proposing to reform laws inherited from former colonial rulers, moving them toward greater repression and in divergence from major international bodies and public health initiatives. Were Uganda to enact and enforce its proposed Anti-Homosexuality bill, for one of the most notorious examples, it would be required to withdraw from the United Nations and African Union, sever links with all its major donors, and arrest a large proportion of the heterosexual population for knowing (but not reporting to the police) suspected homosexuals or human rights and sexual health advocates. In the face of such extremism, and of more mundane acts of extortion or ostracism, it is hard for sexual rights activists not to get discouraged.

Another side of this story, however, does not get as much attention as the homophobic discourse. This is the story of the emergence of a vibrant lgbti (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) network across the continent, of creative and courageous challenges to homophobia, of sensitive and insightful new research into “sexual secrets,” and of political and religious leaders who are resisting the demagogic tide. In this paper I would like to focus on some of the most significant recent achievements in this regard, and to consider four factors that support the long-term success of the sexual rights movement.

Marc Epprecht is a Professor in the Departments of Global Development Studies (DEVS) and History at Queen's University. He has published extensively on the history of gender and sexuality in Africa including Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in southern Africa (winner of the 2006 Joel Gregory Prize from the Canadian Association of African Studies) and Heterosexual Africa?: The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of AIDS  (finalist for the 2009 Mel Herskovits prize from the African Studies Association). He recently received the Desmond Tutu Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Study of Sexuality in Africa” from the International Resource Network-Africa, an arm of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York. Marc has also taught at the University of Alberta and the University of Zimbabwe. He is currently the acting head of department of DEVS.

For any query or further information, please contact Dr Barbara Bompani.

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