In a rare but welcome move, Angola has decriminalized same-sex relationships.
Angola’s penal code criminalizing homosexuality dates to the colonial era, when the African nation was a Portugese colony, and condemned same-sex sexual relationships as one of multiple “vices against nature.” As a result, gay people faced prison sentences of at least fourteen years.
After establishing a new penal code in 2019, the country’s president signed it into the law in November 2020, and it officially took effect on February 9.
In addition to decriminalizing same-sex relationships, the new code also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, with a minimum prison term of two years for those who break the law.
LGBTQ activist Jean-Luc Romero-Michel called the new law “a great step forward” for the country.
Sheena Swemmer, a researcher and attorney who received her PhD from the University of Johannesburg, celebrated the move but criticized the country for taking so long to enact the legislation.
She told South Africa’s Sunday Times, “It was about time and it’s exhausting because you feel like it should have happened a long time ago. This is a movement in the right direction, but we are in 2021 and this should have already happened. We want this to happen across the continent and the world.”
At the time of the new penal code’s passage in 2019, Francisco Queiroz, minister of justice and human rights, called it an “an act of sovereignty by the Angolan State which, after 134 years of being governed in the criminal and criminal fields, with a code that has been in force since 1886, from the colonial administration, now has the penal code totally inspired by political reality, legal, cultural and social Angolan.”
Last month, the top human rights body of the Americas called on Jamaica to repeal its colonial-era ban criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships.
In a first-of-its-kind ruling for LGBTQ rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that criminalizing LGBTQ people or same-sex behavior violates international law.
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