In a victory for human rights in Africa, Angola has repealed a colonial era law that banned same-sex sexuality, making it the first country to decriminalise homosexuality in 2019.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in Angola’s Parliament voted to adopt a new penal code that excludes the previous 1886 ban on “vices against nature”, which is widely understood to relate to gay and lesbian sexuality.
Although the law has not been used by the state to prosecute LGBT people in modern times, the move is an important statement against homophobia in Angola and the rest of Africa.
“While there have been no known prosecutions under the law, provisions like this one curtail the rights and freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, subjecting their intimate lives to unwarranted scrutiny,” said Graeme Reid, Director, LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Colonial-era laws outlawing same-sex conduct give tacit state support to discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, contributing to a climate of impunity,” he added.
In another welcome development, MPs on Wednesday also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and in the provision of services, with penalties of up to two years in jail.
In June 2018, the Iris Angola Association (Associação Íris Angola) became the first civil rights organisation that advocates for LGBT rights to be legally registered by the Angolan government.
Angola has now joined Mozambique, another former Portuguese colony, in repealing the criminalisation of homosexuality. That country took the important step forward in June, 2015, but has refused to formally register its own LGBTQ association, Lambda.
“In casting aside this archaic and insidious relic of the colonial past, Angola has eschewed discrimination and embraced equality,” said Reid. “The 69 other countries around the world that still criminalise consensual same-sex conduct should follow its lead.”