Courtenay W. Daum
Law enforcement has a lengthy history of policing LGBTQ communities. Throughout the 20th century, police utilized laws prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct to criminalize LGBTQ individuals, and to target public gathering places including gay bars. Sodomy prohibitions were supplemented by mental health diagnoses including assumptions about criminal pathologies among LGBTQ individuals and the government’s fear that LGBTQ individuals’ sexual perversions made them a national security risk to subject LGBTQ communities to extensive policing based on their alleged sexual deviance. The successes of the gay rights movement led the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder in the 1970s, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that prohibitions on sodomy run afoul of the Constitution ended the de jure criminalization of LGBTQ individuals based on their sexual conduct.
Today, policing of LGBTQ communities consists of both overpolicing and underenforcement. Law enforcement regularly profiles some facets of LGBTQ communities in order to selectively enforce general criminal prohibitions on public lewdness, solicitation, loitering, and vagrancy—consistent with the goals of “quality of life” policing—on gay men, transwomen, and LGBTQ youth, respectively. The selective enforcement of these laws often targets LGBTQ people of color and other intersectionally identified LGBTQ individuals in order to criminalize their existence based on ongoing stereotypes about sexual deviancy. In addition, police regularly fail to recognize LGBTQ individuals as victims of crimes, with the exception of particularly heinous hate crimes, and do not adequately attend to their needs and/or subject them to secondary victimization. As such, the relationship between many LGBTQ communities and law enforcement continues to be characterized by antagonisms and mistrust.
The Canadian LGBT movement has had enormous success in gaining political and legal recognition for sexual minorities—as much as any of its sister movements in other countries. This is especially remarkable because the sexual repressiveness of the Canadian social and political climate remained largely in place until the 1990s. And although activist groups across the country have had challenges in marshalling resources, mobilizing beyond the regional level, and overcoming internal inequities, advocacy pressure has been effective enough to produce a political sea change with few precedents in other issue areas. Starting in the 1990s, Canada experienced a country-wide “takeoff” in the formal recognition of sexual diversity, most dramatically in the legal status given to same-sex relationships. Even if a vocal minority of the general public opposed such moves, the acceptance of sexual minorities as legitimate members of the Canadian mosaic has become politically normalized.
Sexual diversity is far from being fully accepted, and those communities traditionally under-represented in the LGBT movement still face marginalization in a period of growing socioeconomic inequality. But the movement has made impressive gains, aided by social and institutional factors that have allowed activist leverage when the political winds blew in their favor. This success, however, presents new challenges, creating complacency within and beyond LGBT circles and increasing the difficulty of mobilizing people and resources.
The decline of religiously conservative opposition to the public recognition of sexual diversity in Canada has also created room for the movement to become more fragmented than it has been in the past. And yet there is still much need for advocacy. Socially conservative politicians are still pandering to public anxiety about recognizing sexual diversity. Activist attention is still needed in areas such as schooling, policing, social service provision, and immigration. Trans people, “two-spirited” Indigenous people, and sexual minorities within Canada’s large ethnocultural and religious minorities are often on the margins of their own communities, the broader society, and the LGBT movement itself.
From the early 1970s through the mid-2000s, the Canadian movement’s trajectory was similar to activism elsewhere. A “liberationist” period generated a long-lasting strand of radicalism alongside a slowly growing current focused on seeking rights through mainstream political channels (Adam, 1987, 1999). The analysis to follow first points to distinctive elements of the Canadian social and political context and then traces the evolution of what would become the LGBT movement from these early stages and into a period of legal and political “takeoff.” It points to strong commonalities in movement agendas, even across imposing regional lines, but also recognizes the challenges of mounting coherent movement responses to remaining inequities in a political environment so marked by activist success.
The question of membership and belonging is widely recognized to have been at the root of many political crises in Africa since independence. The legal frameworks for citizenship were largely inherited from the colonial powers and still show strong affinities across colonial legal traditions. However, most African states have enacted significant amendments to citizenship laws since independence, as they have grappled with issues of membership, aiming to include or exclude certain groups. Substantive provisions have diverged significantly in several countries from the original template. African states have shared global trends toward gender equality and acceptance of dual citizenship. In relation to acquisition of citizenship based on birth in the territory (jus soli) or based on descent (jus sanguinis), there has been less convergence. In all countries, naturalization is inaccessible to all but a few. Manipulation of citizenship law for political purposes has been common, as political opponents have at times been accused of being non-citizens as a way of excluding them from office, or groups of people have been denied recognition of citizenship as a means of disenfranchisement. Moreover, even in states where a substantial proportion of residents lack identity documents, it seems that the rules on citizenship established by law have themselves had an impact on political developments.
The citizenship status of many thousands of people living in different countries across Africa remains unclear, in a context where many citizens and non-citizens lack any identity documentation that records their citizenship. The content of the law is arguably therefore less influential than in some other regions. A rapid development in identification systems and the increasing requirement to show identity documents to access services, however, is likely to increase the importance of citizenship law.
In response to these challenges, the African continental institutions have developed, through standard setting and in decisions on individual cases, a continental normative framework that both borrows from and leads international law in the same field.