African nation Angola first in 2019 to decriminalise homosexuality

Angola LGBT community members rainbow flag Photo by Global Voices

Angola has lifted its ban on homosexual activity, with the African nation’s parliament voting to remove the centuries-old “vices against nature” provision from its penal code.

In addition to the removal of the colonial era provision, a new bill bans employers and companies from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation, Human Rights Watch said.

People who identify as LGBTIQ are to be provided with equal access to employment opportunities and services, with anyone found to be in violation, facing imprisonment of up to 2 years.

The bill was passed on January 23 with 155 in favour of the change. Only one voted against it while seven parliament members chose to abstain.

The passing of the bill marked the Angolan government’s adoption of its first new penal code since the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

For over a century, Angolans followed the Portuguese-written penal code where the misinterpreted provision has enabled anti-gay practices to rule in the country.

The old provision allowed people to discriminate against sexual minorities with impunity.

Currently, same-sex couples are not legally recognised in the country and they are subject to great scrutiny.

The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Angola is another milestone, for the increasingly open minded nation, which last year saw its government give recognition and legal status to the LGBTIQ rights group Iris Angola.

Iris Angola, the country’s only gay rights lobby group, was previously allowed to operate freely but was not given legal rights until the granting of their legal status in 2018.

Since their establishment in 2013, the group has rallied against the discrimination experienced by their members in their attempt to access healthcare and education.

This historic change is a welcome win for LGBTIQ people on the African continent at a time when a number of countries have been ramping up their anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric and laws.

The governor of Tanzania’s most populated city made international headlines last year for demanding that residents give him the names of anyone suspected of being gay.

Earlier this week, a high-ranking Nigerian police officer announced on social media that the country is “not a place” for the “homosexually inclined” and warned LGBTIQ people to leave or face prosecution.

(Photo by Global Voices)

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Dianne Grace

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