Experience of and factors associated with violence against sexual and gender minorities in nine African countries: a cross-sectional study

Objective The objective of this research was to assess physical and sexual violence experienced by sexual and gender minorities in nine African countries, and to examine factors associated with violence. Methods We conducted an exploratory multi-country cross-sectional study among self-identifying sexual and gender minorities, using a survey tool available in paper and online. Participants were sampled through venue-based and web-based convenience sampling. We analysed data using descriptive statistics and logistic regression, with Stata15. Findings Of 3798 participants, 23% were gender minorities, 20% were living with HIV, and 18% had been coerced into marriage. Fifty-six per cent of all participants had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 29% in the past year. Gender minorities had experienced significantly higher levels of violence compared to cisgender (sexual minority) participants. The variable most strongly associated with having experienced violence was being coerced into marriage (AOR, 3.02), followed by people living nearby knowing about one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity (AOR, 1.90) and living with HIV (AOR, 1.47). Conclusion Sexual and gender minorities in Eastern and Southern Africa experience high levels of violence. Sexual orientation and gender identity need to be recognised as risk factors for violence in national and regional law and policy frameworks. States should follow the African Commission Resolution 275 and provide protection against violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.