(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
Homosexuality is illegal in Eritrea according to Article 600 of the 1957 Penal Code that strictly prohibits “sexual deviations” which includes performing sexual acts with someone of the same sex. These defined “unnatural carnal offences” are punishable by simple imprisonment which is outlined by Article 105(1) as a sentence applicable to offences of a minor nature committed by persons who are not a serious danger to society. Simple imprisonment can extend from a period of ten days to three years.
Eritrea adopted a new Constitution on 23 May 1997, which suggests that homosexuality is legal. However, the provisions of the new Constitution have not yet come into force. As stated in paragraph 17.4 of the judgment in the British case of YF Eritrea v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2003) “we are therefore led to conclude (although hesitantly, given the lack of sufficient objective material before us) that homosexuality is technically not legal in Eritrea but will become legal when the provisions of the Constitution of May 1997 become fully implemented”.
At the 2010 UN review of the human rights situation in Eritrea, the Eritrean government was challenged to repeal all legislation criminalizing same sex activity by consenting adults. The Eritrean government refused to legalize same sex activity stating that it was “in direct contradiction with the values and traditions of the Eritrean people.”
YF Eritrea v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2003)
The claimant was a gay man attempting to obtain asylum in the United Kingdom due the persecution he has faced and would face in the future because of his sexual preference. Even though the court acknowledged that homosexuality is illegal in Eritrea, there was believed to be no real risk to the claimant upon return*.
*Please note that guidance on deportation has changed since 2003 due to Eritrea’s poor human rights record on issues other than sexuality and gender identity. Fewer countries currently deport to Eritrea.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Homosexuality is not openly discussed in Eritrea and to a large extent the existence of sexual minorities is unknown. Little is also known about the true public opinion on homosexuality, however, the US Department of State notes that homosexual persons are severely discriminated against by society. The state-controlled Eritrean press does not report on issues of homosexuality, but in 2005 correspondence with the United Kingdom Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth office reported that homosexual persons are dealt with severely in Eritrea.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Due to the illegality and stigma attached to homosexuality, there are no known NGOs offering assistance or protection.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We have no country of origin specialist for Eritrea, but would welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Leah Morrison
Email: Morrison_leahhotmail [dot] com