In a move that bucks the trend of increasing homophobia in Africa, the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is set to legalise homosexuality.

Representatives from the Portuguese speaking country notified the UN of the development at the end of January as part of the country’s United Nations Universal Periodic Review session.

“Currently the Criminal Code goes back a very long way when the situation was entirely different and so the courts actually don’t apply the penalty anymore,” the delegation said.

“So, despite what’s there in the text of the law, it’s not applicable because it runs counter to constitutional principles. The new Criminal Code which we’re drawing up does not penalise sexual relations between persons of the same sex.”

It is expected that the revised penal code will in place within the next four months.

Same-sex sexual activity is currently illegal in São Tomé and Príncipe but in December 2008 the country was one of the few African nations to sign a UN declaration calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The Universal Periodic Review provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

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