Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/HRC/25/55/Add.2, 26 February 2014: Togo
IV. Situation of human rights defenders
C. Defenders working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons
77. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is a new group that the Special Rapporteur identified during her follow-up visit. Many of those working on LGBT issues have only organized themselves in recent years, often around HIV-AIDS and other health-related issues. The working environment for defenders is often difficult and hostile owing not only to pressure from society and families but also the existing legal framework.
78. The Special Rapporteur was informed that one important element contributing to this difficult environment is that same-sex relations between consenting adults are, under article 88 of the Criminal Code, a criminal offence punishable by one to three years of imprisonment and a fine. Mindful of the fact that this legal provision has not been used for a number of years, the Special Rapporteur concurs with the Human Rights Committee and other United Nations experts, and believes its mere existence goes against established international human rights standards and may unduly infringe upon, inter alia, the right to privacy, the right to health and the right not be to discriminated against. She also believes that the criminalization of sexual relationships between consenting adults can further stigmatize those advocating for the rights of LGBT persons and make them more vulnerable to pressure and attacks, as experience in other countries in the region has shown.
79. The Special Rapporteur also expresses her concern at the use of certain legal provisions by law enforcement officials without proper investigation of facts in the case of unsubstantiated accusations against defenders and activists. She was informed that some activists have faced accusations of rape and abuse of minors that have not always been properly investigated by the police owing to the prevailing stigma surrounding the work of these defenders, assumptions about their sexual orientation and deeply-rooted discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes.
80. This group of defenders also faces threats, intimidation and harassment in their own communities in connection with their activities and their own sexual orientation. Such incidents are not always reported for fear of criminal charges and social stigma. The coverage of the issue by certain media seems to have contributed to exposing these defenders to more risks.
81. The Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to do their utmost to ensure that defenders may work in a safe and enabling environment, publically support their work, and consider revising the relevant legal framework.
86. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government of Togo:
(m) Ensure that defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment, in particular women and those working for the rights of LGBT persons, by removing obstacles to their work and amending relevant legislation;
88. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the National Human Rights Commission:
(f) Ensure responsiveness and accessibility of the institution for all citizens, and engage actively with all groups of human rights defenders, in particular those working on women’s rights and against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Link to full text of the report: Report-SRHRD-Togo-2014-eng