Across Africa, while court verdicts ensured rights for LGBTQIA+ people in Kenya and Namibia, countries such as Uganda and Ghana doubled down on anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.

The year began with 32 of 54 African countries criminalising LGBTQIA+ people, according to rights group Human Dignity Trust. Going into 2024, that number is down to 31.

Here are the significant updates from 2023.

Mauritius: The island country’s highest court decriminalised same-sex relations, striking down a colonial-era law dating back to 1898.

Kenya: The east African country’s Supreme Court in February affirmed the right of LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups to register as NGOs.

Following the ruling, opposition member of parliament Peter Kaluma presented a bill to parliament in May that would effectively undo the Supreme Court’s decision by limiting LGBTQIA+ people’s rights of assembly, expression and demonstration. The bill is still in parliament and has not yet been passed.

Namibia: The Supreme Court recognised same-sex marriages conducted outside the southern African country. In October, arguments were heard by Namibia’s Supreme Court in a case challenging the constitutionality of laws banning sodomy and related offences. The court will deliver a judgment in May 2024.

Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni signed into law one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQIA laws in May, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. The law allows for life imprisonment for certain offences involving same-sex intercourse, 20-year sentences for “promotion of homosexuality” and up to 10 years for attempting to commit same-sex acts.

Ghana: The west African nation is poised to follow Uganda in enacting strict anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation after its Supreme Court rejected an appeal to prevent the legislature from passing the bill into law. The prospective legislation, first introduced in 2021, will criminalise same-sex relations and transitioning gender, while advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights could lead to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Nigeria: Africa’s most populous country saw two mass arrests within three months in which a total of 145 people were detained for attending what authorities said were gay weddings.

Tunisia: An appeals court in January dropped the protracted prosecution of a gay rights activist, known as Daniel, ruling the case inadmissible due to procedural irregularities. Tunisia retains anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation that continues to be used against LGBTQIA+ people and activists in the country.

This story is part of a series supported by HIVOS’s Free To Be Me programme.

Reporting by Muhammed Akinyemi.

GAY TIMES and Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation are working together to deliver leading LGBTQIA+ news to a global audience.