Africa Challenges Criminalisation: Research Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria 2021


The significance of reviewing criminalisation de jure and de facto laws against marginalized communities is to provide an analysis of how these laws and its applications affect the lives of communities and continue to further marginalized and create vulnerabilities to accessing services and equality. 

De jeur in here refers to the legitimate nature of the laws being imposed whereas de facto refers to the facts relating to the laws which may or may not be superfluous however for this project piece Accountability international in collaboration it the Africa Key Populations Experts Group deemed it necessary for communities to be consulted on their views / opinions/ experience of interacting with the laws and its implementation and the repercussions on their day to day lives. 

In Africa, communities are criminalised are often taken out of context and implemented arbitrability based on identity, morality, sexuality and bodily autonomy, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Examples include same-sex sex (being lesbian, gay), being trans diverse or transgender, accessing abortion, sex work, adultery, possession of pornographic materials, use of drugs, engaging in anal sex, being HIV positive and similar behaviors, identities or just ways of being, this level of criminalisation affects persons with the least access to equality. Essentially the system is rigged from allowing these very communities from living their lives to the fullest. 

Our research covered 4 countries; Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa (still pending). We asked communities of LGBT, Sex Workers, Drug users, PLHIV, Women affected by Zina and Abortion laws to take part to verify that the information in the zero-draft compiled by students from the Academic Program, Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School to review and audit the information provided to ensure the accuracy of the information. To validate all laws used to criminalise marginalized groups are included, no laws that are not used are in the document are included, the information is complete and accurate. Also, we asked these communities to share policy recommendations or recommendations for action for stakeholders based on the advocacy they are already engaged in at National level. 

A thorough consultation process facilitated by the AKPEG as the identities covered in this piece are commonly referred to as “Key populations”. Their perspective in consolidating lived realities vs the de jure and de facto laws that are used in criminalizing the communities they represent is much needed as they interact with these laws daily. The consultation was initiated in 2 phases: starting with Kenya as a pilot, we used the lessoned learned in the pilot phase to further develop the consultation process for subsequent consultations in the remaining 3 countries. 

This report is divided into 5 main sections. In section 1, the paper will provide an in-depth look at criminal de jeur laws in each of the countries where we undertook the research. In section 2, the paper highlights specific criticism on how these laws are implementation as prescribed in the penal code siting providing case studies of how these law are imposed and enforced on the lives of the communities in reference and in Section 3 AI will provide a score card on how the countries laws are viewed with regards to upholding of human rights and affirming gender equality. And finally indicate specific recommendations for action for stakeholders i.e funding partners/donors need to invest in national networks; Broader civil society needs to assist with online campaign. 

An intersectional lens was applied while undertaking this work, for example trans people who use drugs and do sex work.

Download and view the reports below:

*Please note that the Cameroon report is not a Final Version as some content and research has not been fully completed.