The Seychelles National Assembly
In a historic move, lawmakers in the island nation of Seychelles have voted to scrap the country’s colonial era ban on homosexuality.
On Tuesday, half of the 28 members of the National Assembly present agreed to pass an amendment to the penal code that decriminalises the act of sodomy.
The other fourteen present abstained, while four members were not present for the vote.
Before the amendment, any person found guilty of having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or allowing “a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” could have been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
The bill needs to be assented to by the president and sent back to the National Assembly for it to come into force.
The proposal to legalise homosexuality was first made by President James Michel in his State of the Nation address in February.
The bill was presented to the assembly for debate and the vote by Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Joel Morgan. He argued that it was not the state’s role to police matters of morality.
“A sin is not determined by the government but by religion. Each individual needs to follow his or her conscience on the issue,” said Morgan.
Fabianna Bonne, the founder of the first and only advocacy group for the LGBTI community in Seychelles told the Seychelles News Agency that the group appreciates the fact that no one voted against the proposal although half of those present abstained.
“The loudest message that abstaining sent was that they were not going to stand in the way of this change of law happening and we at LGBTI Seychelles appreciate that,” said Bonne.
“Our focus will now be more on educating all of our society about LGBTI as we have noted that misconceptions and negative stereotyping is very widespread on this subject. Our aim however remains full equality across all aspect of citizenship for after all, we pay our equal share of taxes and participate actively in the development of our country,” she added.
Homosexuality is illegal in 34 countries in Africa. Once the amendment is enacted, the Seychelles will join Mozambique as the only other African nation to recently decriminalise homosexuality.