It has been a bad few weeks for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in southern African with hate speech and arrests in Zambia and a pro-LGBTI group being forced to go to court in Botswana to seek recognition.
But there has also been cause for cheer from Mozambique – a small cheer admittedly but a cheer nevertheless.
According to the independent daily newspaper, Mediafax, the newly established Mozambican Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has recommended that the Mozambican Constitution, which is in the process of being reviewed, should include sexual orientation as one of the grounds for non-discrimination.
Custodio Duma, the Chairperson of the MHRC and a former Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa human rights fellow, argues that homosexuality is a reality in Mozambique and that a country, which professes to uphold the rights of everybody, cannot turn its back on some of its own citizens just because they have a different sexual orientation.
Furthermore, he claims that the current Mozambican Labour Act already includes sexual orientation as a ground for non-discrimination in the work place, implying that the government recognises the existence of people of different sexual orientation – and that their rights ought to be protected.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Mozambique but LGBTI rights are not promoted or protected. Indeed, for years the government has been resisting registering LAMBDA – the only openly pro-LGBTI organisation in Mozambique – as a legal entity.
And trying to include sexual orientation in the constitution will certainly be controversial and might well fail. But publicly raising the issue is a step forward – and very welcome after recent events in other parts of the region.