The Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is finally emerging from a bloody civil war, although there are sporadic reports of armed attacks, according to Human Rights Watch. Although recent months have seen an increase in anti-gay rhetoric coming from government and churches in nearby Nigeria and Ghana, thankfully that has not been the case in the Côte d'Ivoire.
Gays are becoming "increasingly visible in the commercial capital Abidjan," reports Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa.
The picture might look gloomy and the current state of affairs might not be in favour of the gay community, Ivory Coast remains an island of hope for homosexuals in the West African region. "Eldorado" is the word used by [prominent gay activists] to describe Ivory Coast in comparison to other countries in the region, which enforce strict laws against homosexuality.
Members of gay communities from across the region and around the globe travel to Ivory Coast for meetings, exchanges, projects and self-fulfilment in general. In Abidjan, the number of gay people living openly is increasing steadily.
Sodomy laws were never criminalized in this former French colony.
Unlike some countries where homosexuality is regarded as a crime punishable by law, "there is a judicial gap in Ivory Coast on the question. This makes the country an ideal destination for regional and international gatherings such as gay and lesbian conferences", says F. A., a homosexual and legal expert for Alternative Côte d’Ivoire (ACI), who wished to remain anonymous.
"Homosexuality is only criminalised in Article 360 of the Penal Code, not as an act but as indecent behaviour; and only when performed in public. Therefore, as long as homosexual acts are performed behind closed doors, there is no crime, so that’s all right as far as the authorities are concerned," adds the legal expert.
There are no explicit laws against gays ... but the West African nation has seen more than its share of anti-LGBT violence and harassment, notes the U.S. State Dept. in its Annual Human Rights Report.
"There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care. However, gay men were subjected to beatings, imprisonment, verbal abuse, humiliation, and extortion by police, gendarmes, and members of the armed forces."
Ivorian HIV/AIDS service providers are also targeting outreach and prevention efforts toward men who have sex with me, R20 reported from AIDS 2010 in Vienna.
Côte d'Ivoire had established itself as one of the most successful West African nations until the civil war that began in 2002. Here's hoping that the country can rebrand itself as an economic engine that also protects human rights.
Read RNWA full report HERE.