Upholding Human Rights in Africa: The Vital Role of Strategic Litigation

Recent developments on the African continent underscore the pressing need for organisations like the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and the critical importance of strategic litigation in defending the rights of marginalised communities.

In Nigeria, news of the arrest and detention of dozens of people who purportedly attended a same-sex wedding has sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ+ community. It marks one of the largest mass arrests targeting this community in recent years. Those arrested face charges under Nigeria’s anti-homosexuality law, which carries severe penalties, including imprisonment of up to 14 years. This incident reveals the harsh reality faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Nigeria and the urgency of defending their rights. According to information received by ISLA, some of those arrested have been subjected to anal testing – further contravening their human dignity.

Similarly, in Uganda, two individuals are facing the death penalty for violating the country’s anti-gay law. Despite international pressure, Uganda recently passed a law that punishes homosexuality with the ultimate sanction. The situation is dire and calls for unwavering advocacy in defense of human rights.

These incidents are just recent examples of state interference in sexual rights as with similar cases that ISLA is litigating in Malawi, Tanzania, and Ghana. ISLA’s mission is clear and vital: to use strategic litigation as a powerful tool to advance gender and sexuality rights across the African continent. These recent cases in Nigeria and Uganda demonstrate the urgent need for civil society to hold governments accountable for violence and other discriminatory acts, fight against persecution, and advocate for the rights of marginalised communities.

Strategic litigation goes beyond legal proceedings; it amplifies the voices of those who have been silenced, challenges unjust laws, and seeks justice for all. ISLA’s work is essential in holding governments accountable and ensuring that basic human rights are protected, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a climate where discrimination persists, the role of organisations like ISLA is more crucial than ever. The rights of privacy, freedom of association, and freedom from persecution must be defended, and ISLA is at the forefront of this fight. These recent incidents in Nigeria and Uganda serve as stark reminders of the obstacles that lie ahead, but they also underscore the resilience and determination of those advocating for change.

ISLA’s mission to promote strategic litigation for gender and sexuality rights aligns perfectly with the need to combat discrimination and secure equal rights for all. As we face these challenges, let us remember the importance and impact of strategic litigation in advancing human rights and social justice across Africa. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

For more information, please contact

Dr Ayodele Sogunro

ISLA Sexual Rights Lawyer

Email: ayodele@the-isla.org