Laws on Homosexuality in African Nations

The following chart summarizes the treatment of homosexuality in the laws of forty-nine African nations.  The provisions on criminal penalties only include penalties for acts involving adults, as all nations penalize sexual acts, whether homosexual or heterosexual, involving children.  Of the jurisdictions surveyed, only South Africa affirmatively permits same-sex marriage.

Country Criminal Provisions Laws Against

Advocacy

Recognition of Same-sex Marriage
Algeria Any person guilty of a homosexual act is punished with a term of imprisonment of between two months and two years and a fine of between 500 and 2000 Algerian Dinars (about US$6.40–$25.60).[1] None found. Not recognized.
Angola The Angolan Penal Code is silent with regard to the criminalization of homosexuality.  However, article 71(4) determines that security measures are applicable to people who habitually practice “acts against nature.”  Article 70 of the Penal Code lists the security measures, which include confinementin an insane asylum; confinement in a workhouse or agricultural colony; probation; pledge of good conduct; and disqualification from the practice of a profession.[2]

According to the Angolan Ministry of Justice, a proposal for a new Penal Code will be sent to the Council of Ministers in March 2014[3] that would no longer have these provisions.[4]

None found. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Angola.  The Angolan Family Code defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman, formalized under the law, for the purpose of establishing full communion of life.[5]
Benin Article 88 of the 1996 Penal Code punishes homosexual acts with one to three years of imprisonment and a fine of XOF 100,000–500,000 (about US$210–$1,050).  However, it appears that no one has ever been convicted under this law.[6] None found. Not recognized.
Botswana Some homosexual acts are illegal.  The Botswana Penal Code provides that “[a]ny person who … has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.”[7]  Attempt is also an offense, and punishable on conviction with up to five years in prison.[8]  However, in order for carnal knowledge (sexual intercourse) to be against the “order of nature,” there must be anal penetration by a sex organ.[9]  Therefore, while sodomy of any form, whether it involves a heterosexual or homosexual couple is an offense under this provision, a homosexual sexual act that does not involve anal penetration with a sex organ may be legal.[10] None found. No law permitting same-sex marriage found.
Burkina Faso No laws against homosexual relations.[11] None found. Not recognized.
Burundi A 2009 revision of the Penal Code made homosexual relations punishable by three months to two years of imprisonment and/or by a fine of BIF50,000–100,000 (about US$33–$66).[12] None found. The Burundian Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage.[13]
Cameroon Same-sex sexual intercourse is punishable by six months to five years of imprisonment, and a fine of XAF20,000–200,000 (about US$42–$419).[14] None found. Not recognized.
Cape Verde The Cape Verdean Penal Code does not criminalize homosexual acts.[15] None found. Same-sex marriage is not recognized.  According to the Cape Verdean Civil Code, marriage is defined as the voluntary union between two persons of different sexes that intend to constitute a family by means of a full common life.[16]
Central African Republic “Public expression of love” between persons of the same sex is punishable by six months to two years of imprisonment, or a fine of XOF 150,000–600,000.  However, this law does not seem to be enforced by the police.[17] None found. Not recognized.
Chad None found. None found. Not recognized.
Comoros Homosexual acts are punishable by one to two years of imprisonment and a fine of KMF 50,000–1,000,000 (about US$140–$2,792).[18] None found. Not recognized.
Congo (Democratic Republic of the) Homosexual acts are not explicitly illegal, but article 172 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “violations of morality” under penalty of up to five years of imprisonment, could be used against gay and lesbian individuals.[19] None found. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage.[20]
Congo (Republic of the) No information found. None found. Not recognized.
Côte d’Ivoire No laws against homosexual relations.[21] None found. Not recognized.
Djibouti Homosexual acts appear to be legal, as there does not seem to be any provision of the Penal Code of Djibouti dealing with these issues.[22] None found. Not recognized.
Egypt Homosexuality is punished as a “scandalous act,” with detention for up to one year and/or a fine of up to 300 EGP (about US$43).[23] None found. Not recognized.
Eritrea Homosexuality is illegal.  Eritrean law states that a person who “performs with another person of the same sex an act corresponding to the sexual act, or any indecent act, is punishable with simple imprisonment.”[24]  The terms “sexual act” and “indecent act” are not defined.  When a person is convicted under this provision, the court has the discretion to impose a sentence ranging from ten days to three years of imprisonment.[25]   None found. Not recognized.
Ethiopia Homosexuality is illegal.  The country’s law states that “whoever performs with another person of the same sex a homosexual act, or any other indecent act, is punishable with simple imprisonment.”[26]  The law does not provide definitions of the terms “homosexual act” and “indecent act.”  Although simple imprisonment generally entails a prison sentence ranging from ten days to three years, courts are authorized to impose higher sentences (up to five years of imprisonment) in cases of recidivism.[27] None found. Not recognized.
Gabon Homosexual acts appear to be legal, as there does not seem to be any provision of the Gabonese Penal Code dealing with these issues.[28] None found. Not recognized.
Gambia Homosexuality is illegal.  The country’s Criminal Code states that a “person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits any person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a felony known as unnatural offense, and on conviction is punishable by a fourteen-year prison term.[29]  An attempt to commit an unnatural offense is also a felony, on conviction, punishable by seven years of imprisonment.[30]  In addition, the Code criminalizes what it calls “indecent practices”: anyone who “commits an act of gross indecency with another” in public or in private or “procures” or “attempts to procure” another to commit such act with him/herself or with another person commits a felony, and on conviction is punishable by a five-year prison term.[31]

The Criminal Code provides definitions for certain terms.  The term “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” includes:

  1. Carnal knowledge of the person through the anus or mouth of the person;
  2. Inserting any object or thing into the vulva or anus of the person for the purpose of stimulating sex; and
  3. Committing any other homosexual act with the person.[32]

An act of gross indecency includes any homosexual act.[33]  However, the term “homosexual act” is not defined.

UPDATE (Nov. 26, 2014): In October, 2014, The Gambia amended its Criminal Code and introduced a new offence with regard to homosexual acts called “aggravated homosexuality.”

Additional information on this topic is available.

None found. Not recognized.
Ghana Ghana criminalizes sodomy.  Under this country’s law, a “person who has unnatural carnal knowledge of … another person of not less than sixteen years of age with the consent of that other person commits a misdemeanor,”[34] an offense punishable on conviction by a maximum three-year prison term.[35]  “Unnatural carnal knowledge” involves “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner” and requires “the least degree of penetration.”[36] None found. Not recognized.
Guinea Article 325 of the Penal Code punishes homosexual acts with six months to three years of imprisonment, and a fine of GNF100,000–1,000,000 (about US$14–$143).[37] None found. Not recognized.
Guinea Bissau The Penal Code of Guinea Bissau does not criminalize homosexual acts.[38] None found. In Guinea Bissau, the Civil Code defines “marriage” as a contract between two persons of different sex who wish to start a family through full communion of life.[39]  Therefore, same-sex marriage is not recognized.
Kenya Kenya’s Penal Code criminalizes sodomy.  Under this law, a “person who … has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a felony, punishable on conviction by a fourteen-year prison term.[40]  An attempt to commit an unnatural offense, also a crime, is , punishable on conviction by a seven-year prison term.[41] None found. Not recognized.
Lesotho Sodomy appears to be a common-law crime in Lesotho.[42]  Under the country’s Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, sodomy is one of the offenses for which a person may be arrested without a warrant.[43] None found. No information located.
Liberia Liberia criminalizes homosexual acts.  It makes engaging in voluntary “deviate sexual intercourse” by any person a first-degree misdemeanor, an offense punishable by up to one year in prison.[44]  The term “deviate sexual intercourse” includes “sexual contact between human beings who are not husband and wife or living together as man and wife though not legally married, consisting of contact between the penis and the anus, the mouth and the penis, or the mouth and vulva.”[45]  A sexual contact involves “touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying a sexual desire.”[46] None found. Not recognized.
Libya Homosexuality is punished under the Penal Code provision on extramarital sexual relationships.  When consensual, such relationships are punished with imprisonment for up to five years.[47] None found. Not recognized.
Madagascar No laws against homosexual relations.[48] None found. Not recognized.
Malawi Malawi criminalizes homosexuality.  Anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits an “unnatural offence,” a felony, on conviction, punishable by a fourteen-year prison term.[49]  Attempting to commit an “unnatural offence,” also a felony, is punishable on conviction by a seven- year prison term.[50]  In addition, Malawi criminalizes what it calls “indecent practices.”  Anyone who “commits an act of gross indecency with another” in public or in private or “procures” or “attempts to procure” another to commit such act with him/herself or with another person commits a felony and is, on conviction, punishable by a five-year prison term.[51]  The term “gross indecency” is not defined. None found. Not recognized.
Mali No laws against homosexual relations.[52] None found. Not recognized.
Mauritania Article 308 of the Mauritanian Penal Code punishes homosexual acts by Muslim men with death by stoning.  Homosexual acts by two women are punished with three months to two years of imprisonment and a fine of MRO5,000–60,000 about (US$17–$207).[53] None found. Not recognized.
Mauritius The Criminal Code of Mauritius criminalizes sodomy, stating that “[a]ny person who is guilty of the crime of sodomy … shall be liable to penal servitude not exceeding 5 years.”[54] None found. No information available.
Morocco Under the Penal Code, any person who “commits lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of between six months and three years and a fine of 120 to 1,000 dirhams [about US$14.63–$121.94], unless the facts of the case constitute aggravating circumstances.” None found. Not recognized.
Mozambique The Mozambican Penal Code is silent in regard to criminalization of homosexuality.  However, article 71(4) determines that security measures are applicable to people who habitually practice “acts against nature.”  Article 70 of the Penal Code lists the security measures, which include confinementin an insane asylum, confinement in a workhouse or agricultural colony, probation, pledge of good conduct, and/or disqualification from the practice of a profession.[55]

According to the Mozambican government, on December 18, 2013, the Parliament approved by consensus a general draft revision of the PenalCode.  It was not possible to determine, however, whether the mentioned provisions were altered.[56]

None found. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Mozambique.  Pursuant to the Mozambican Family Law, “marriage” is defined as the voluntary and singular union between a man and a woman for the purpose of constituting a family by means of a full communion of life.[57]  Thus, same-sex marriage is not recognized.
Namibia It appears that Namibia criminalizes some homosexual acts.  Although no legislation or other primary source criminalizing homosexuality or homosexual acts was located, some secondary sources indicate that sodomy is a common-law crime in the country.[58]  No information on penalties imposed for the commission of this crime was located. None found. No information available.
Niger Homosexual acts appear to be legal, as there does not seem to be any provision of the Penal Code of Niger dealing with these issues.[59] None found. Not recognized.
Nigeria Nigeria’s federal law criminalizes homosexuality.  Anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits an “unnatural offence,” a felony punishable on conviction with a fourteen-year prison term.[60]  An attempt to commit an “unnatural offence,” also a felony, is punishable on conviction by a seven-year prison term.[61]  In addition, Nigeria bans male persons from engaging in what it calls “gross indecency”: procuring or attempting to procure another male for the commission of gross indecency in public or private.[62]  A violation of this ban is a felony punishable on conviction by a three-year prison term.[63]  Furthermore, Nigeria prohibits a “public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly,” the violation of which is, on conviction, punishable by ten years of imprisonment.[64]  There are some states that have adopted Sharia law and these states reportedly have imposed the death penalty for homosexual behavior.[65] Nigeria prohibits any form of gay rights advocacy.  The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act states that the “registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings is prohibited.”[66]  Violation of this provision is punishable on conviction by a ten-year prison term.[67] Same-sex marriage and civil unions are prohibited.[68]  The violation of this ban is an offense punishable on conviction by a fourteen-year term of imprisonment.[69]  In addition to the parties to the same-sex marriage or civil union, anyone who “administers, witnesses, abets or aides the solemnization of same sex marriage or civil union” commits a crime punishable on conviction by a ten-year prison term.[70]
Rwanda No laws against homosexual relations.[71] None found. Not recognized.
São Tomé e Príncipe The new Penal Code enacted in 2012 does not criminalize homosexuality.[72] None found. It was not possible to determine whether same-sex marriage is recognized.
Senegal Homosexual acts are punished with one to two years of imprisonment and a fine of XOF100,000–1,500,000 (about US$209–$3,142).[73] None found. Not recognized.
Seychelles Seychelles appears to prohibit certain homosexual acts.  Its Penal Code bans sodomy, stating that anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a felony punishable on conviction by a fourteen-year prison term.[74] No information available. No information available.
Sierra Leone It appears that Sierra Leone bans certain homosexual acts.  Although all sources consulted for this report indicate that sodomy is currently illegal in Sierra Leone, they appear to diverge on the question of the source for this law.  Some indicate that the prohibition is based on an 1861 English law banning buggery (sodomy and bestiality), introduced in Sierra Leone during the colonial era, which is still in force in the country.[75]  This law states that “[w]hosoever shall be convicted of the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed with Mankind or any Animal, shall be liable, at the Discretion of the Court, to be kept in Penal Servitude for Life or any Term not less than Ten Years.”[76]  Another source indicates that sodomy is a felony under common law in Sierra Leone.[77]   None found. No information available.
Somalia Somalia bans homosexuality.  Its Penal Code states that anyone “who has carnal intercourse with a person of the same sex shall be punished, where the act does not constitute a more serious crime, with imprisonment from three months to three years.  Where the act committed is an act of lust different from carnal intercourse, the punishment shall be reduced by one third.”[78]  In addition, a person convicted for homosexuality may be subject to what is known as a “security measure,” which is a measure imposed on persons deemed “a danger to society,” in the form of police surveillance or deportation (if the person is not a citizen).[79] None found. Not recognized.
South Africa South Africa abrogated laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, including the common-law crime of sodomy, and legalized same-sex sexual activity in 1998.[80] None. South Africa recognizes gay marriage.[81]
South Sudan South Sudan bans certain homosexual acts.  Its Penal Code prohibits sodomy, stating that a person who has “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or who allows any person to have such intercourse with him or her” commits an “unnatural offence,” punishable on conviction by up to ten years in prison and a fine.[82] The crime is complete at penetration.[83] None found. No information available.
Sudan The Penal Code of 1991 states as follows:

Section 148 Sodomy.

(1) Any man who inserts his penis or its equivalent into a woman’s or a man’s anus or permits another man to insert his penis or its equivalent in his anus is said to have committed Sodomy.

(2) (a) Whoever commits Sodomy shall be punished with flogging by one hundred lashes and he shall also be liable to five years’ imprisonment.

(b) If the offender is convicted for the second time he shall be punished with flogging by one hundred lashes and imprisonment for a term which may not exceed five years.

(c) If the offender is convicted for the third time he shall be punished with death or life imprisonment.[84]

The Penal Code also provides that anyone who carries out acts considered “indecent or inappropriate to the public morals will be punished by flogging not exceeding 40 times or a fine or both punishments.”[85]

No information available. Not recognized.
Swaziland No primary source on the legal status of homosexuality or homosexual conduct was located.  Secondary sources indicate that sodomy is a common-law crime in Swaziland.[86]  No information regarding the penalties imposed for this offense was located. No information available. No information available.
Tanzania Mainland Tanzania criminalizes certain homosexual acts.  The country’s Penal Code bans sodomy and imposes a harsh penalty.  Under this law, anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a crime punishable on conviction by thirty years to life imprisonment.[87]  An attempt to commit sodomy is also criminalized and is punishable on conviction by a minimum of twenty years of imprisonment.[88]  In addition, the law bans “indecent practices between males”: any male who commits any act of gross indecency with another male, procures another male to commit such act or attempts to procure the commission of such act commits a crime punishable on conviction by a five-year prison term.[89]  “Gross indecency” includes a “sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behaviour without any physical contact.”[90] No information available. No information available.
Togo Homosexual acts are punished by one to three years of imprisonment and a fine of TZS100,000–500,000 (about US$210–$1,050).[91] No information available. Not recognized.
Tunisia Sodomy, if not covered by any of the other articles, is punished with imprisonment for three years.[92]

In addition, anyone who intentionally and publicly promotes “indecency” is punishable by imprisonment for six month and subject to a fine of 48 dinars (about US$30).[93]

No information available. Not recognized.
Uganda Uganda’s Penal Code bans sodomy, stating that anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a crime punishable on conviction by life in prison.[94]  An attempt to commit such crimes, also prohibited, is punishable on conviction by a seven-year prison term.[95]  In addition, the Penal Code prohibits what it calls “indecent practices” (a term for which no definition is provided) by any person.[96]

A law adopted by the country’s Parliament on December 20, 2013, and signed by President Yoweri Museveni on February 24, 2014, criminalizes homosexuality and imposes harsh penalties for violations of its provisions.[97]  Under this law, an offense of homosexuality (which includes sodomy, homosexual oral sex, or any form of same-sex sexual activity) is punishable on conviction by a fourteen year prison term.[98]  An attempt to commit such an offense is punishable on conviction by a seven-year prison term.[99]  Aggravated homosexuality, which includes recidivism, is punishable by up to life in prison.[100]

The recently adopted law uses broad language to ban what it calls the “promotion of homosexuality,” including the use of “electronic devices which include internet, films, [or] mobile phones for the purpose of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;” engaging in such activity is punishable by five to seven years in prison and/or a fine.[101]  If the perpetrator of this offense were a juridical person, the operating license would be lost and the person in charge would be subject, on conviction, to a seven-year prison term.[102] Same-sex marriage is a crime punishable on conviction by life imprisonment.[103]
Zambia Zambia’s Penal Code bans sodomy, stating that anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature…or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” commits a crime, on conviction, punishable by fourteen years to life in prison.[104]  Attempt, also a crime, is punishable on conviction by a seven- to fourteen-year prison term.[105]  In addition, the Penal Code prohibits what it calls “indecent practices,” a term for which no definition is provided, by any person, including children under the age of sixteen.[106]  When the perpetrator of the offense is an adult, he/she is punishable on conviction by seven to fourteen years of imprisonment.[107]  However, if the perpetrator of this crime is a child, courts are authorized to impose only community service or counseling.[108] No information available. No information available.
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe prohibits male homosexual conduct.  A male person who, with consent, performs “anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act” commits the crime of sodomy, on conviction, punishable up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine.[109] No information available. No information available.

Reference:

Library of Congress. Laws on Homosexuality in African Nations. [2016,March 2].