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UN Report: The Permanent Shadow: The Impact of Colonialism on Sexual and Gender Minorities in Kenya and Zimbabwe (2023)

ReportOUT were delighted to submit a paper in response to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commission’s call for input into a report on colonialism and sexual orientation and gender identity 

ReportOUT was delighted to be cited twice within the final report, published by the UN Special Rapporteur and presented to the UN General Assembly in July 2023. We are delighted that this topic was addressed as it allows a space for pre-colonial queer histories to be explored, dispelling categorically the notion that GBTQI+ identities are a recent western invention. 

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Please read and download this report (opens in PDF) by clicking here

Report summary:

Part of the UN’s broader monitoring of LGBTQI+ Human Rights, the report in question will ‘examine the past and present colonial regulation of sexual orientation and gender identity through laws, policies and practices, and how such regulation continues to impact the lives of LGBTQI+ persons, including through layers of cultural influence and social mores on concepts of gender and sexuality.’ The report was published in 2023.

A multinational team of six ReportOUT researchers constructed a paper, focused on Kenya and Zimbabwe as case studies to demonstrate the lingering impact of colonialism upon, largely hostile, contemporary policy towards LGBTQI+ communities within both states. Titled ‘The Permanent Shadow’, our report demonstrates that the documented existence of same-sex attraction in both societies was obliterated by British Victorian sensibilities. 


Prior to colonisation, many African countries did not see gender as a binary as their European colonizers did, nor did they correlate anatomy to gender identity. British colonial laws, notably Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code provided for the offence of ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal.' It imposed a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. 

The colonial legacy of homophobia continues to this day, with same-sex relationships continuing to be criminalised and political leaders deeming homosexuality as a Western import and un-African, disregarding their own history pre-colonial acceptance of diverse sexual orientations. Our report illustrates the myth of such diversity being a Western imposition, which remains an aspect of contemporary political discourse in both countries.  Ultimately, such policies only serve to damage their own people and hinder both countries’ abilities to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the benefit of their citizenry. ReportOUT is proud to contribute to the UN Office of the High Commissioner’s report and will continue to stand with sexual and gender minorities around the globe.

Another ReportOUT Success!

Our report was a success!

This research was cited twice in the report which was presented at the United Nations General Assembly!

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