Dr Patrick Herminie
The speaker of the Seychelles National Assembly has urged SADC member countries to decriminalise homosexuality.
Dr Patrick Herminie, who is also the SADC Parliamentary Forum President, made the passionate call at a meeting of regional MPs during a joint session of SADC regional standing committees, reported Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper.
“As a medical practitioner, I know from training and experience that criminalisation has no place in public health; if anything it is counter-productive in that it drives people underground, far from public health care and other services,” said Dr Herminie.
“The evidence that criminalisation as a public health-ensuring strategy does not work is too plain to contest. I invite all of us to smell the coffee and take rational decisions to deliver universal access to all of our people, lest history judges us harshly.”
He went on to say: “That people are born as LGBTI is now beyond dispute. If it is inborn, then it is a human right issue.”
Dr Herminie argued that not only should homosexuality not be illegal but that the criminalisation of abortion and drug abuse also hamper effort to deal with public health concerns.
“As we work towards ending AIDS as a public health threat and achieving universal access to Sexual Reproductive Health, my plea is that we say no to criminalisation and discrimination, shun anecdotal evidence and begin to advocate and legislate on the basis of sound evidence,” Dr Herminie said.
He added: “We are not ostriches! We need to take bold steps to protect human rights and public health.”
Frustratingly, in the otherwise positive report, The Herald’s Zvamaida Murwira chose to refer to homosexuality as a “vice” and a “habit”.
SADC (Southern African Development Community) is a regional organisation consisting of 15 member countries: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Of these countries, South Africa, the DRC, Lesotho and Mozambique are the only countries that do not criminalise homosexuality in some form. In March, however, the Seychelles government agreed to start the process of repealing the nation’s criminalisation of gay sex, introduced in 1955 while it was still a British colony.