An activist’s silhouette is seen through a rainbow flag. (Getty)
Six LGBT+ activists have been beaten up and forced to flee the town of Kamituga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Acts of anti-LGBT+ violence and harassment have intensified in the region in recent months, with many members of the local community accusing LGBT+ people of being in conflict with traditional practices.
Some traditional chiefs and local community leaders have also claimed that the LGBT+ people are “satanic and diabolical”, according to advocacy site Erasing 76 Crimes.
The six LGBT+ activists were victims of death threats, with the perpetrators still unknown. Local residents also threatened to stone them.
The activists lived together, having all been forced to flee their family homes due to their sexuality.
On 31 July, a group of people forced open the door to their home and beat them until they managed to escape.
They took refuge with a friend in Kamituga before fleeing to Lugushwa, where they are currently in hiding.
The mayor of Kamituga said he had not yet heard about the incident but would strive to find out who the perpetrators are.
A local LGBT+ organisation, Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko (RSM), denounced the incidents and has pleaded for the activists to be relocated to the city of Bukavu to guarantee their safety.
RSM said this is not the first incident of violence against members of its organisation, as two LGBT+ activists based in Kamituga were kidnapped in January 2020. One was later found dead and the other is still missing despite numerous investigations by security services in the area.
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in the Congo, but same-sex marriages or unions are not recognised. Since 2006, there has been a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
There are no anti-discrimination laws protecting people on the basis of sexuality, and many people are not supportive of LGBT+ people living in the country.