Voices and means to fight homophobia in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon

Homosexuality is still taboo in several West African countries, notably Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Senegal, and its very existence may be denied. Public opinion considers homosexuality to be a voluntary choice reflecting sexual perversion motivated by economic calculations. Homophobia is increasing and widely shared, causing many instances of violence against LGBTI people – such as arbitrary arrest, exclusion from education, denial of health care, expulsion from homes and unfair dismissal. National institutions and civil society organisations for the defence, promotion and protection of human rights are silent in the face of these abuses, thus legitimising the excesses suffered by the LGBTI community.


In Cote d’Ivoire’s Penal Code the punishment of homosexuality is implicit, but in Cameroon and Senegal homosexuality is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison. In Cameroon, 35 people were arrested for homosexuality in 2017. In 2016, a 24-year-old man was threatened with a five-year jail term for exchanging messages with another young man on his mobile phone. In Senegal, 15 people were tried and convicted for homosexuality. In 2015 alone, 27 people were victims of physical or verbal violence, and 14 others were refused care in centres for people living with HIV. In Cote d’Ivoire, where the climate seemed more benign, the first conviction for homosexuality came in November 2016, when the lower court of Sassandra pronounced sentence on two young people.


The media amplify this rising tide of homophobia. Instead of explaining or clarifying the subject, they present it in emotional terms. Journalists use words and expressions that reflect the condemnations, exclusion, even the calls to violence and social eradication, that fan popular sentiment. It is a kind of trial of LGBTI people, in which neither they nor those who defend them can speak. They do not have the communication skills or tools needed to create and disseminate relevant and good quality multimedia outputs, to effectively respond to the abuses transmitted by the media.


This is why PIWA has collaborated with various local partners engaged in defending LGBTI rights, to develop a project to counter the discourse of hate and the prejudices which nurture homophobia. The aim is to foster tolerance of homosexuals and respect for their rights as human beings.


The project Voices and means to fight homophobia is funded by the European Union for three years, 2015-17. It is carried out in Senegal, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, in partnership with local human rights defence organisations such as the Network of media, arts and sports professionals fighting against AIDS and other pandemics, Côte d’Ivoire (REPMASCI); the Association for the defence of homosexuals’ rights, Cameroon (ADEFHO); Africa Consultants International (ACI-Boabab); Cote d’Ivoire Alternatives and Cameroon Alternatives. The aim is to strengthen the relevance, effectiveness and influence of communication by defenders of homosexuals’ rights, to promote these rights and fight prejudices against them.

  • Skills-building workshops in use of social media, for organisations defending the rights of LGBTI people
  • Awareness-raising workshops for journalists
  • Training and financial support for producing media content
  • Information resources such as briefing papers on the human rights of LGBTI people, made available to journalists and civil society organisations
  • Support for organisations to produce situation reports and alerts
  • Exchange of experiences through visits and participation in conferences
  • Institutional support for partner organisations


1. To strengthen the capacities of human rights defence organisations in communication – internal, among themselves, and with other communities
  • Organisations defending the human rights of LGBTI people will have better command of communication tools, to address the public and raise awareness of prejudice
  • Human rights defence organisations will be able to produce their own media content and support expression by LGBTI people
  • Human rights defence organisations will be able to identify and carry out awareness-raising and socially relevant communication activities, in a hostile cultural environment. They will collaborate better together, and be better able to defend the interests of their LGBTI target groups in regional human rights institutions.
2. To disseminate ethical and properly substantiated media content, to challenge prejudices against homosexuals
  • Alternative and more secure media dissemination channels will allow circulation and sharing of more open information on the rights of LGBTI people
  • LGBTI people will have tools and other support for raising awareness, informing and mobilising the public and regional human rights defence institutions
3. To foster objective perceptions among journalists, and promote more ethical and professional media coverage of homosexuality
  • Journalists will be sensitised to cover homosexuality and LGBTI issues in a more responsible way
  • Journalists will be better informed about homosexuality. They will have greater capacity to produce balanced and well substantiated information  
  • Examples of good practice and experiences of producing information on LGBTI will be shared and exchanged among journalist networks