Human rights are universal and not restricted by geography. Although Africa, a vast and diverse continent, recognises this in its Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the LGBTIQ+ community still faces considerable obstacles due to social stigma, discrimination, and legislative prohibitions. In Africa, 32 countries criminalise same-sex conduct; this is about 60% of the continent, according to ILGA World.
Recently, Uganda enacted one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTIQ+ laws, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. This is not the first case of such punitive laws in Africa. Ghana has proposed an equally punitive bill, and in Kenya, a similar bill to that of Uganda has been proposed.
Coalitions of global companies such as Workplace Pride, Open for Business and INGOs working with civil societies such as HIVOS have called out for companies to take a stand; governments to halt punitive laws and civil society organisations to remain relentless in the fight for an inclusive society where LGBTIQ+ persons fully contribute to the economic growth and development of their countries.
Global corporations wield considerable power and leverage in shaping public opinions and policies. As opposed to an individual or groups of individuals, corporations are in a more influential position to work with governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders for economic and social progress. Thus, by taking a stand on LGBTIQ+ inclusion, they can significantly influence legislative reforms, challenge discriminatory practices, and create societies where LGBTIQ+ inclusion is valued.
The support for LGBTIQ+ inclusion is good for the countries and their people and is also beneficial from a business perspective. Multinational corporations can attract and retain the best talent, expand their markets and demonstrate leadership by living out their values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical for any organization that wants to be creative and innovative. Embracing LGBTIQ+ inclusion communicates to employees, stakeholders, and future talent that the organization appreciates diversity and promotes an inclusive work environment. Global organisations can attract top individuals from diverse backgrounds and benefit from the varied perspectives, skills, and experiences they offer by cultivating an inclusive workplace culture.
Global corporations can promote inclusion for all and human rights by speaking out for LGBTIQ+ inclusion, serving as beacons of progress in places where LGBTIQ+ people are excluded from economic participation through bias in representation, hiring and even access to employment. These multinational corporations should lead the way by internally creating safe spaces for their LGBTIQ+ employees, awareness and training programs for their leaders, external activism, and even ‘quiet or silent’ diplomacy, where they work to influence governments behind the scenes positively.
While I do understand that advocating for LGBTIQ+ inclusion may be complex and challenging for global corporations that operate in countries where the legislation may be prohibitive or even punitive, I believe that true leadership calls for courage to stand up for those who are excluded; speak up for those whose voices are muted and collaborate with *civil society organisations to explore the best approaches to engage in economic and social change, especially for the LGBTIQ+ community in Africa.
– By Levis Nderitu, Africa Strategy Advisor, Free to be Me Project, Workplace Pride based in Nairobi, Kenya.
*The CSO Toolkit available at https://civilsocietybusinesstoolkit.org/ provides a wide range of tools and approaches that can be effectively utilised to facilitate transformative change. Notably, Tool 7 focuses specifically on Advocacy and Business, offering invaluable resources to support this endeavor. By accessing this toolkit, individuals and organisations can gain access to a comprehensive set of tools designed to enhance their advocacy efforts, while bridging the gap between civil society and business sectors. This toolkit equips users with practical strategies, guidelines, and methodologies to navigate the complexities of advocacy within the context of business interactions.