Corporate Leaders Must Stand up for LGBT Rights in Africa

July 31, 2014

AVAC and partners are putting public pressure on US corporations who will be meeting with African leaders during the week of August 4th in Washington DC. We are working in coalition to develop a sign-on statement that will be published in media outlets and complemented by country-based advocacy in Africa, asking US corporations that have made public commitments to human rights, including rights for LGBT individuals, ask African governments to provide the same protections for their citizens. It’s good for public health and good for business.

The text of the sign-on statement is below. An important background document, developed by the Population Council, summarizes the public health impact of these bills. PLoS Medicine has an article reinforcing these points. To sign on or get involved in ongoing work please contact us. Please note the deadline for signing on is August 1st, 2014.

Sign on statement:
Corporate Leaders Must Stand Up for LGBT rights in Africa

US companies committed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, including, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, IBM, MasterCard and Walmart, must take a stand for human rights and against stigma and homophobia, including anti-homosexuality legislation, that compromise the safety, health and lives of LGBT people throughout Africa. Each of these companies have clear policies that protect LGBT people from discrimination in the work place, and each of these multinational corporations has supported actions across the US and globally that promote non-discrimination and affirm the human and legal rights of LGBT populations.

Same-sex relations are illegal in 37 African countries. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan are in Washington this week at the US-Africa Leaders Summit discussing US investment in Africa. Both of these African leaders signed laws this year that call for imprisonment of citizens who dare to be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Under the laws, individuals who work with associations of LGBT can be prosecuted as well. The Constitutional Court of Uganda recently ruled against that country’s new anti-homosexuality law. Now is the time to urge President Museveni and these other 36 African heads of state to protect the rights of all citizens.

The CEOs of the listed companies who have investments, corporate partnerships, and often direct business with African governments including those of Uganda and Nigeria will have the opportunity to address their leaders, including Museveni and Jonathan. These companies’ leaders must use this forum to affirm their commitment to the rights and safety of their employees, customers, and broader communities by speaking out against criminalization of LGBT people, and those organizations working with them. In addition to violating human rights, anti-gay laws, policies and practices undermine progress made in combating the AIDS epidemic by further marginalizing the very populations most in need of HIV services.

As public health, human rights and HIV/AIDS advocates, we call on these leading corporations to play their role as global champions for equality—make it clear that financial investments require an environment that promotes the rights of all members of society, including sexual minorities.

Equal treatment under the law is not just good for health; it’s good for business.

Organizational Signatories:

AIDS Foundation of Chicago
AIDS Project Los Angeles
Anova Health Institute
ATHENA Network
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations
Centre for the Development of People
Center Stage Media Arts
Center for Health and Gender Equality
Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights Nigeria
David Kato Foundation
Futures Group
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV
HIV Justice Network
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
House of Blahnik, Inc.
Housing Works
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
International HIV/AIDS Alliance USA
International Rectal Microbicide Advocates
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination — Guyana
Sonke Gender Justice
Tennessee Association of People with AIDS
Total Health Empowerment and Development Initiative
Uganda Harm Reduction Network
Youth and Children Rights Shield

Individual Signatories

Angel Luis Hernández, HIV prevention community educator
Brian Kanyemba, Human rights and HIV advocate
Jacqueline Wambui Mwangi, HIV activist
Mannaseh Phiri, HIV/AIDS and sexual health rights activist
Paul Semugoma, Anova Health Institute, Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award winner