The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Angola and across the world are full of smiles after the country adopted a new penal code that decriminalizes homosexuality.
The oil-rich southern African country, this month, shed the divisive “vices against nature” provision in its law, widely interpreted to be a ban on homosexual conduct, reports Human Rights Watch.
Angola does not have any anti-LGBT laws but members of the community complain of discrimination in accessing services in health and education. With the changes made, the government has prohibited discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
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“And so anyone refusing to employ or provide services to individuals based on their sexual orientation may face up to two years in prison,” the Human Rights Watch report said.
The changes were made on January 23 when Angola’s parliament adopted its first new penal code since it gained independence in 1975 and removed the “vices against nature” provision that it inherited from its Portuguese colonizers.
There have been no known prosecutions under the law, but the “vices against nature” provision tends to place the lives of LGBT people in Angola under scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the adoption of the new penal law comes after the country, last year, gave legal status to Iris Angola, the country’s only formal gay rights lobby group.
This was a major breakthrough for the LGBT association which was founded in 2013 and has since been defending the rights of sexual minorities in Angola.
Although some African countries are slowly accepting same-sex marriages, many are still very categorical in their denunciation of the idea. Some have even made it a capital offence punishable by death – Mauritania, Sudan, southern Somalia and northern Nigeria
Many members of the LGBT community in these countries have been forced to hide their sexuality while others have fled their homes for fear of being attacked.
In Uganda, for instance, same-sex relationships have been illegal since British colonial rule, and in neighbouring Tanzania, the situation is no different
As political landscapes continue to change across the continent, new ideologies are slowly taking shape and societies are becoming more accepting as far as embracing same-sex relationships is concerned.
In Kenya for instance, a court in 2015 ruled in favour of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – a non-governmental organization supporting the LGBT community – which had moved to court compel the Kenyan government to recognize it as a legal entity. In its ruling, the court argued that refusing to register the commission was an infringement of the right of association for gay people.
In Uganda, the controversial 2014 law criminalizing homosexuality has since been overturned, although the constitution still doesn’t recognize same-sex relationships.
In South Africa, LGBT people enjoy constitutional and statutory protection from discrimination at work, school, and places of worship, as well as in provision of goods and services.
A world map released by Australian insurance company Travel Insurance Direct in March 2018 identified countries and territories according to how tolerant national attitudes were towards LBGTI couples.
The map is shaded from red to purple which respectively indicates countries with illegal or intolerant attitudes towards homosexuality and countries where same-sex marriage has been legalised.
Homosexuality is illegal in these countries:
In these countries, there is no law against homosexuality but there is high intolerance:
Central African Republic
In these countries homosexuality is legal but there are no other protections:
Same-sex marriage is allowed in this country:
Here are some social media reactions after the penal code was discarded in Angola for a new LGBT-friendly one.
Everyone should be treated the same by law no matter what gender, sexuality or religion they are. Gay people also pay taxes like the rest. The government should treat them equally. Angola has taken that step and African countries including mine must follow suit.
— Kinyua Abala. 🇰🇪 (@AbalaKinyua) January 24, 2019
The country of Angola on Wednesday (23/01/19) became the first country this year to decriminalize gay sex. While we support this step, discrimination and stigma is still a problem in the country. Importantly, there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples. #Africa #Lgbt pic.twitter.com/8UcVxraU0K
— PRIDE IN LAW (@prideinlaw) January 24, 2019
Great step by Angola to not only remove colonial era homophobic law but also introduce provisions against homophobic discrimination- as part of general penal reform. Out with the colonial, in with the decolonial embrace of difference! #afrifem #lgbtrightshttps://t.co/Ys1wbFIXRB
— jessica horn (@stillSHErises) January 24, 2019
#Angola has decriminalised same-gender intimacy, overturning a #Colonial Portuguese law. It has also included a new provision outlawing workplace discrimination based #Sexuality in a 155-1 vote. This is wonderful news and further proof of the need to #Decolonise.
— Ibtisam Ahmed (@Ibzor) January 24, 2019
I’m happy for Angola. As a former colony, decriminalizing homosexuality and banning LGBTQ discrimination is a huge step forward in the decolonization process. We’re reclaiming our power by scrapping one colonial law at a time. Our ancestors will be proud.
— a naughty nerd (@JustDerby) January 24, 2019
CONGRATULATIONS to Angola for destroying the old colonial rule law and decriminilised gay sex. A wonderful step forward. Live and let live darlings https://t.co/BYlFCqoes7
— Queen Alexandra (@thepartyroyal) January 24, 2019