From a regional analysis, it was found that African nations received the largest number of SOGIESC-specific rights-affirming observations from the CEDAW Committee (14) and The Pacific had the highest number of countries (7 out of 9 State parties that have ratified CEDAW) that did not receive any rights-affirming observations from the Committee.
A total list of countries that have received rights-affirming observations are: Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, and Uganda (Africa); Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Americas); India, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka (Asia); Cyprus, Malta and the United Kingdom (Europe); and Australia, Fiji and New Zealand (Pacific).
The CEDAW Tracker noted that some countries had a change in status. In Africa, two countries – Rwanda and Namibia – also moved from ‘No recognition of LBTI rights’ to receiving its first ever rights-affirming reading. Additionally, Uganda’s status changed from ‘Rights affirming reading’ to ‘Complete endorsement of LBTI rights under the convention’ – this means that the Committee put out more rights-affirming recommendations for Uganda, despite recent developments in the country and backlash against LGBTQI+ activists.
In the Americas, St. Kitts and Nevis moved from ‘No recognition of LBTI rights’ to receiving its first ever rights-affirming reading for LBTI people in 2022. Singapore, Malaysia and Maldives in Asia moved from ‘Rights affirming reading’ to ‘Complete endorsement of LBTI rights’, which means that the CEDAW Committee recognised the use of the Convention for the advancement of LBTI rights, acknowledges state action around decriminalisation; all LBTI constituencies are recognised in their framing and positive rights and a framework for their implementation is included in the concluding observation, with intersectionality at its centre.
Africa also had two new countries join the Commonwealth – Gabon and Togo. While Togo did not receive a rights-affirming reading in its last CEDAW session in 2012, Gabon received its first in 2022, which looked at recommending effective protection to LBTI people from gender-based violence, discrimination and asked the state to ensure that they receive full access to justice. Gabon and Togo both come to the Commonwealth with interesting histories and relationships with LBTI rights. Historically, these countries have not been a part of the British colonial system, and as a result have not inherited the laws criminalising sodomy. In fact, Gabon is one of the 88 member states and governments who make up the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), and has a mixed legal system based on customary law and French civil law, which did not export laws criminalising sexual orientation. Therefore, in Gabon, same-sex conduct has never been illegal, except for a period between July 2019 and June 2020. Gabon, therefore, criminalised same sex conduct in 2019, which was then reversed. Togo criminalised same-sex conduct in 2015.
While the Committee did not provide SOCIESC-focused recommendations for certain countries, despite a SOCIESC-inclusive LoI, there were also countries where there were no LBTI-inclusive LoIs and yet, the Committee Concluding Observations contained recommendations that centred LBTI people. Most of these countries (6 countries) were in the African region – Cameroon, Gabon, the Gambia, Kenya, Mozambique and Namibia, .
Despite a push back against LBT recommendations from the Gambia expressed in its sixth periodic report submitted to the Committee in December 2020, where the state stated that the issue of LGBT was not considered to be a problem in The Gambia because even though it is criminalised the LGBT community are not subjected to any form of discrimination and harassment, in October 2022, the Committee noted with concern that women human rights defenders, especially those who identify as LBTI and advocate on behalf of LBTI people are subjected to serious online and other threats, intimidation and harassment for their work on women’s human rights. LBTI people, as the Committee noted, face criminalisation and intersecting forms of discrimination in the Gambia. However, there were no LBTI-specific or inclusive questions in the LoI in 2022.
Other countries that did not have an LBTI-inclusive LoI but received SOGIESC-focused rights-affirming recommendations were New Zealand, (Pacific); The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and Grenadine (Americas).