P 37

Connected to Defend What is Taboo? Alliances as Part of Associative Strategies to Defend Rights That Are Socially and Legally Critical

Panel abstract
This panel will present communications that analyse the importance of different forms of ‘connections’ for associations that defend causes which remain not only taboo in large sections of African society, but which concern acts that are illegal (for example homosexual relationships, abortion, etc.). Two of the key-issues are the legal context and the question of image and ‘social cost’.
On the legal side, formal guarantees of freedom of association are easily circumvented in African countries in order to prohibit the creation and / or functioning of associations whose social purpose does not correspond to socially accepted values. Associations that defend ‘critical’ rights can connect to international associations for support, to key actors of the UN-machinery in charge of the application of international conventions, to international funding agencies, etc.
On the image side, international connections can have ambiguous effects. Local actors can be criticized for being under foreign influence, for wanting to introduce foreign, Western, Northern, ‘non-African’ ideas and norms. The alliance with foreign actors can therefore provide support, but also trigger ‘social costs’ in terms of the image of an African association.

Time: Saturday, 30/06/2018, 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 13

Elisabeth Hofmann (University of Bordeaux, France)
Jean-Christophe Lapouble (Sciences Po Bordeaux, France)

Agathe Menetrier (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle)
Jasmine M. Shio (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Elisabeth Hofmann (University of Bordeaux, France)
Jean-Christophe Lapouble (Sciences Po Bordeaux, France)


Paper abstracts

Agathe Menetrier
Asylum for Homosexual West-Africans? A Fragile Network of Alliances

Yahya Jammeh ruled over the Gambia for 22 years. Among the Gambian citizens who suffered the most under the authoritarian regime were homosexuals and persons perceived as such. Many Gambians fled the country escaping arbitrary arrests, torture, and mob violence. International organizations saw an increasing number of Gambian homosexual men and women knock on the door of their Dakarian regional headquarters, begging for protection in Senegal, which also criminalizes homosexuality. In Dakar, a consortium of LGBT-friendly structures was discretely put together in 2014. Jammeh’s homophobic hunt had attracted enough international attention so that UNHCR’s West African office managed to obtain resettlement quotas in Western countries and the consortium obtained funding from Western states to assist homosexual asylum seekers during their stay in Senegal. 2017 was Gambia’s first post-Jammeh year. Young men and women continued to flee to Dakar, claiming to fear for their lives because of their sexual orientation. But resettlement opportunities and the LGBT consortium for Gambian asylum seekers stopped as the Gambia became a new cooperation partner in the fight against irregular migration. In this paper I am interested in the outcomes of this post-Jammeh time for the pre-existing network of alliances. The analysis will first highlight how international organizations’ award of an internationally recognized status (asylum) to displaced homosexual Gambians legitimized the activities of some local LGBTI organizations but not all of them. It will then focus on the withdrawal of this international acknowledgment and its consequences for the actors locally implicated (Senegalese organizations and asylum seekers).

Jasmine M. Shio
Without Morals and More: Survival Strategies Among Gay Men in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the African countries where same-sex relationships among men are considered un-African and criminalized by the law, with the penalty of up to 500,000 Tanzanian shillings and/or thirty years of imprisonment. This paper aims at understanding the survival strategies used by gay men in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where homosexuality is both criminalized by law and also against the societal norms. It also aims at adding a significant understanding of several coping strategies used by the marginalized groups in our societies even when their behaviour is against the state and the accepted societal norms. Ethnographic research methods such as participant observation, unstructured interviews, and in-depth interviews with the key informants were the main methods used to collect data for this paper. Through spending time with respondent at their homes, bars, night clubs, healthcare facilities, and the hangout spots known as ‘vijiwe’, it was ascertained that gay men in Dar es Salaam are in a constant pressure of using several survival techniques to elude the law and different forms of violence from the public. They use tricks like having multiple identities, hiding from the public’s eye, frequent mobility, and several forms of silent activism. It is quite common to see people involved in behaviour that is unacceptable in the society getting exposed to conviction or face humiliation. However, strict laws and social norms do not just disrupt them; instead, they push them to keep spawning new survival skills and new forms of activism to survive in the spaces where they are totally marked as deviant.

Elisabeth Hofmann
Associative Strategies to Defend Rights That Are Socially Taboo – Examples from Cameroon, Morocco, and Senegal

In one way or another, most associations aim at goals of social and/or economic change, some of them claim more specifically rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are a delicate issue in many African countries, as moral and religious considerations enter the scene and legal barriers remain important. In this context, questions arise about the type and extent of the ‘corridor of action’ for associations to defend causes which remain not only taboo in large sections of society, but which concern acts that are illegal. For example, abortion exists in the societies of Cameroon, Morocco, and Senegal, but remains largely unacknowledged explicitly and even illegal in the three countries studied. In this context, actors have to make delicate strategic choices to choose effective strategies to help the concerned individuals, enhance public awareness, and/or challenge decision-makers and the legislator: creation of a formal association or preference for an informal group; open claims/action or hidden support; main issue or one amongst others (e.g. health); and type of alliance with foreign actors. On this basis, a four-dimensional framework has been developed and tested. The analyses of some associations in Cameroon, Morocco, and Senegal in the light of this analytical framework allow for some feedback about its relevance and solidity. These preliminary results also give some insight into the dynamics and dilemmas faced by actors defending socially or legally delicate rights and the strategies they develop to circumvent the main obstacles.

Jean-Christophe Lapouble
The Influence of the International Human Rights System in the Structuring of Associations Fighting for the Defence of Homosexuality, the Example of Three Countries: Cameroon, Morocco, and Senegal

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, African countries have at their disposal a ‘model’ in the development of the law of associations whatever the cause. However, for both political and cultural reasons, the association regime in these countries has only been formally liberalized and remains under strong government control, de facto, if not de jure. Thus, even though there is an African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, declared in 1981, this text also refers to traditional African values, which can of course serve as a pretext to challenge any legitimacy in the struggle for human rights as the legalization of homosexuality. The African Commission on Human Rights, which provides for a regular review of the texts in force in each of the African States, stated in its third report (2014) with regard to Cameroon that: ‘The ignorance, by the majority of the population, of national human rights promotion and protection legal instruments as well as instruments ratified at the regional and international levels by the Republic of Cameroon restricts the effective enjoyment of human rights in the country.’ Generally speaking, formal guarantees relating to freedom of association are thus easily circumvented in these countries in order to prohibit the constitution and/or operation of associations whose social purpose (of homosexuality) does not correspond not to socially accepted values. Such limits therefore entail for the actors working in these areas the obligation to adopt legal strategies that take into account the artificial nature of the existing legal rules.