Challenges faced by LGBTQ+ in Accessing Safe Abortion in Southern Africa.

Safe Abortion Access is also a LGBTQ issue in Southern Africa

In recent years, we have seen a rise in uprisings pertaining to the rights of LGBTQ identifying individuals across the globe, and Africa has exhibited similar trends. There has been an increasing demand for access to numerous services from the community, especially within the realm of healthcare.

Alongside this push has also been the rise in demands for access to abortion services in many restrictive contexts. Often, these two movements have been characterised as independent, but they have more connection than we tend to realise.

Abortion is not only a service for cis-gendered women.

When we think of access to abortions, whether a subconscious decision or not, we often affiliate this service with cis-gendered women. But the fact of the matter is that there are many people who fall within the minority who also need access to this service, many of which fall within the LGBTQ community. The current framework under which this service exists, even in liberal contexts, fails to capture the needs of both non-binary and trans people, and this error has far-reaching consequences in countries on the African continent. [1].

The plight of LGBTQ persons across the globe in many ways traverses borders, but there are certain components that are unique to specific contexts. Similar to the women’s suffrage movements, certain cultural factors determine the nature of demands that communities have in different countries. While women in the west, otherwise known as the developed world, are fighting for equal pay alongside the right to partake in certain political frameworks, many women in the global south are confronting age-old cultural practices that limit their economic ability and relegate them to the outskirts of society. [2]

The disparity among the LGBTQ+ community.

This disparity in many ways, is mirrored when it comes to the advocacy surrounding LGBTQ rights and by extension, their access to certain healthcare services such as abortion services.

In many western contexts, many people in the trans community, have access to hormonal treatments as well as gender reaffirming surgeries and as a result of that, the inadequacies in healthcare services are largely aligned with a lack of knowledge on the existence of such treatments. Conversely, in many contexts in Africa, the trans community perceives their identity beyond their ability to access these healthcare services, which means many of them are not under hormonal treatment.

There is immense strength in this actualisation within the African community, however what it means is that many trans men have female anatomy, which in turn means their healthcare needs are similar to that of their cis-hetero counterparts. Many trans men do not comfortable being on birth control because of the perception of infidelity that comes along with their use, as well as the often feminising characteristics these treatments bring forward. This often means that pregnancy among them is not uncommon and just as the cis-hetero women, they need access to abortion services.

Abortion services in Africa

Unfortunately, many African states have not only restrictive and often deadly LGBTQ laws, but they also have incredibly restrictive abortion frameworks. And if those who identify with the sex assigned to them at birth struggle with this system, where does this leave the LGBTQ community?

Healthcare frameworks that exist under legislative structures which refuse to acknowledge this community mean they often face the barriers faced by their cis-hetero counterparts, in addition to the prospect of being misgendered and isolated by the informational or procedural material that exists in the very few places that offer comprehensive reproductive health services.

Many individuals part of the trans community have expressed a discomfort in accessing reproductive health services because of the burden that comes with explaining their identity, on top of the condition that has brought them to the provider [3]. As a result, they do not have access to comprehensive information on medical abortions that they could conduct at home up to 13 weeks, or Manual Vacuum Aspiration abortions that could be conducted up to 14 weeks. And the prospect of carrying a child to term for many individuals of this community can be immensely triggering for a body dysphoria that is already rampant as a result of contexts and governments that refuse to acknowledge their identity entirely.

Abortion and LGBTQ rights in Africa

This is the intersection between abortion and LGBTQ rights in Africa that is often ignored and ought to have more attention cast onto. As is the case with the numerous plights of the marginalised, there are immense intersections between these different modalities of oppression, and often, liberalising the one will mean great benefits for the other.

It has been found that in the presence of comprehensive LGBTQ services is also comprehensive reproductive health services. The two work hand in hand, and in ignoring one, we run the risk of further propagating the very oppressive systems we believe to be addressing. As such, it is of the utmost importance to advocate for both LGBTQ rights and abortion rights in unison, as opposed to looking at the two as separate entities, especially within the African context.

For more information regarding abortion in Africa, visit our abortion information per country page.

[1] Abortion Access Is an LGBTQ Issue. Lauren Paulk. Accessed August 2021.

[2] Third World Critiques of Western Feminist in the Post Development Era. Javier Pereira Bruno. Accessed August 2021.

[3] Abortion Care is Not Just for Cis Women. Sachiko Ragosta. Accessed August 2021.