Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the Ivory Coast have been forced to flee their homes and a number of them have come under attack for signing a condolence register at the U.S embassy for the victims who lost their lives in the gay nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida.
The U.S. embassy in the Ivory Coast published photos of six members of the Ivorian LGBT community on its official website. The photographs clearly showed the faces of the six men and was captioned, “LGBTI community signing the condolence book.” In addition, Prime Minster Daniel Kablan Duncan and other government officials signed the condolence register.
The photographs were taken on 16 June, four days after Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old lone gunman, attacked the gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others in what has been regarded as the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001. The incident is also the deadliest event of violence against members of the LGBT community in the United States.
All six men say the U.S. embassy did not request their consent before publishing the photos, which went viral on social media platforms within the Ivory Coast, making it easy for them to be identified.
Two of the men say they were subsequently attacked by angry anti-gay mobs that furiously kicked and punched them to the ground. Four of the six men have been forced to go into hiding to avoid further attacks.
The U.S. embassy has condemned the Ivorian attacks and expressed deep regrets. Elizabeth Ategou, U.S. embassy spokeswoman in the Ivory Coast, however, says contrary to the men’s claims, the embassy did the consent of the leaders of major LGBT communities in Ivory Coast. Those leaders, though, were absent from the photos and it is unlikely that they attended the condolence signing.
South Africa is the only African country to have legalized same-sex marriages. Many countries on the continent have passed laws criminalizing same-sex relations and offenders can face lengthy prison sentences for their sexual orientations.
There is also the more insidious risk of a public lynching by irate mobs on anyone suspected of having same sex sympathies while the authorities stand aside and watch.