African lesbian and gay activists are meeting in Johannesburg to challenge state homophobia in 38 countries on the continent.

The first regional conference of ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, in Africa takeS place in Johannesburg from May 5 to 8, 2007.

On occasion of this first Pan African conference, 60 human rights and LGBTI activists from all corners of the African continent will gather at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg to discuss ways to challenge state homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia in Africa.

In 2007, no less than 85 member states of the United Nations still criminalise consensual same-sex acts among adults, thus institutionally promoting a culture of hatred. Amongst those, 38 are African governments.

A report on State Homophobia in Africa will be launched during the conference. The collection of laws presented in this report is an attempt to show the extent of state homophobia in Africa.

Although many of the countries listed in the report do not systematically implement those laws, their mere existence reinforces a culture where a significant portion of the citizens need to hide from the rest of the population out of fear. This results in a culture where hatred and violence are justified by the state and force people into invisibility or into denying who they truly are.

According to the organisers, “Whether imported by colonial empires or the result of legislations culturally shaped by religious beliefs, if not deriving directly from a conservative interpretation of religious texts, homophobic laws are the fruit of a certain time and context in history. Homophobia is cultural.”

ILGA, The International Lesbian and Gay Association, is a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people.

Founded in 1978, it now has more than 560 member organisations. Every continent and around 90 countries are represented. ILGA is the only international non-governmental community-based federation focused on fighting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation as a global issue.

More information is available at africa.ilga.org and www.ilga.org.

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