African nation of Angola officially lifts ban on homosexuality

angola african nation homosexuality decriminalise rainbow flag
Photos: Olaf Kosinsky/Creative Commons, Ludovic Bertron/Flickr

Angola has decriminalised homosexuality, lifting an archaic colonial-era ban on same-sex relationships in the southern African nation.

The country reformed its Penal Code, overturning a ban on same-sex relationships inherited from when the country was a Portuguese colony. The old law described same-sex relationships as a “vice against nature”.

But in January 2019, Angolan lawmakers passed a bill to make the changes to the Penal Code. However the country’s President João Lourenço (pictured above) didn’t sign it into law until November 2020.

Rights groups said despite rare prosecutions under the laws, they effectively endorsed discrimination against queer Angolans.

Under the new laws, however, homophobic discrimination is also now an offence punishable with jail time.

Angolan LGBTIQ organisation Iris Angola cheered the new laws coming into effect.

“Today is a very special day for us LGBTQIA+,” the organisation wrote on Facebook, also using the hashtag “TogetherWeAreStronger”.

Angola decriminalisation leads to calls for other countries to follow

Activist Jean-Luc Romero-Michel described the law as a “great step forward” in the fight against state-sponsored discrimination.

“The law decriminalising homosexuality adopted in Angola in 2019 took effect today,” he tweeted.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is now reprehensible and even punishable by prison.

“A great step forward for human rights, which calls for others.”

Last June, Gabon also voted to decriminalise homosexuality, reversing a ban on gay sex put in place just a year earlier.

Botswana also decriminalised homosexuality in mid-2019.

At least 69 countries still have national laws criminalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch. Almost half of all criminalising countries are on the African continent.

Last July, Sudan in east Africa abolished the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality, but jail terms remain on the books.

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