Africa: Transgender Activists Attend Historic Gathering

For Immediate Release

(Cape Town, December 19, 2008)- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Gender DynamiX announced today the successful conclusion of their first ever African Strategy Workshop for transgender activists. Held in Cape Town, South Africa, the historic workshop brought together 15 activists from 9 East and Southern African countries—Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—to address the very specific needs of transgender people on the African continent. It marked a key step in the process of defining and building the African transgender movement by African transgender people.

“Transgender people throughout the world experience frequent and unacceptable discrimination, violence and abuse,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s Executive Director. “IGLHRC is proud to be part of this historic gathering of transgender people, taking the fight for human rights in Africa to a whole new level.”

The African Strategy Workshop was designed to help activists document human rights abuses against transgender people, derive best practices for human rights advocacy, and share information on gender identity, reassignment surgery and hormone treatment. “This long overdue meeting forms an integral part of trans history on our continent and a cornerstone for our future work,” said Liesl Theron, Director of Gender DynamiX.

Until recently, transgender activists in Africa have lacked the space to exchange experiences and information, leaving many to work in relative isolation. Only one transgender organization— Gender DynamiX—exists on the whole continent. And the African sexual rights movement has mostly confined itself to addressing the concerns of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.

“Transgender issues have been in the dark for so long,” said Victor Mukasa, IGLHRC’s Program Associate for the East, Central and Horn of Africa and a transgender person himself. “I am glad that trans Africans are now speaking out and bringing to light the various human rights violations that they face daily.”

Participants at the workshop gave moving and painful testimony revealing the wide range of human rights abuses—from arbitrary arrest and detention to rape and murder—that African transgender people regularly encounter. Activists focused on the case of South African Daisy Dube, who was murdered in Johannesburg after requesting that she not be called istabane (a derogatory Zulu slang word, similar to faggot). Their stories also described frequent violations of the rights to property, housing, expression, privacy, health and employment.

Activists at the workshop elected leaders to coordinate the trans movement in East and Southern Africa. They also established a set of priorities for future work, including education, healthcare access (including basic healthcare services, which are often denied to transgender people, as well as hormones and gender reassignment surgery), and working to prevent arbitrary arrests and unnecessary bodily searches. Activists pledged to join hands and build the movement to fight all forms of oppression directed toward transgender people in Africa.

“This was a dream come true,” said Skipper Mogapi, Trans Alternate at the Trans Secretariat of ILGA. “Seeing trans people together in their space raising their concerns without being intimidated. We know what the issues are and can now deal with them.” Participants returned to their home countries, determined to continue this important work.

IGLHRC has long conducted capacity building workshops and training institutes to strengthen domestic and human rights advocacy related to sexual orientation and gender identity. IGLHRC held its first Latin American Human Rights Advocacy Institute for emerging leaders in the field of transgender and intersex rights in Argentina in 2005, as well as subsequent Human Rights Training Institutes addressing lesbian issues in Central America and the rise of religious fundamentalism in Latin America (the latter was held last month in Sao Paulo, Brazil in partnership with Catholics for a Free Choice). The African Strategy Workshop marks IGLHRC’s first significant capacity building workshop in Africa, and its first collaboration with Gender DynamiX.

For more information about the African Strategy Workshop, contact;

In New York:
Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC: or +1-212-430-6016
In South Africa:
1. Victor Mukasa, IGLHRC: or +27 21 4693 701
2. Liesl Theron, Gender Dynamix: or +27 21 633 5287 ext 112


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit for more information

Gender DynamiX, is a human rights organisation promoting freedom of expression of gender identity, with a focus on transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people. Gender DynamiX is the first and only registered NGO in Africa working in this field. Work includes advocacy, awareness workshops, presentations and guest lectures, seminars, individual referrals regarding medical, mental health and legal matters. We are all inclusive and also work with the family and loved ones of transgender people. For more information, contact: Liesl Theron at: or +27 21 633 5287 ext 112 or visit