Today on the blog we are celebrating the advancement of human rights. In a ground breaking move Angola has decriminalised homosexuality. There are sixty eight countries recognised by the UN that still criminalise homosexual conduct, but Angola is no longer one of them.
On the 23rd January 2019, the Angolan parliament took a vote which saw a huge majority of 155 members in favour of overhauling the existing criminal penal code. This is the first alteration of its kind since they gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
“In casting aside this archaic and insidious relic of the colonial past, Angola has eschewed discrimination and embraced equality.” – Human Rights Watch
Despite the fact there were no prosecutions in the old law which prohibited ‘vices against nature’, the UN has still praised this reform for it will prevent the discrimination that LGBT people’s were facing in their daily lives and the unfair public scrutiny they were subjected to. It is a necessary reform in this modern era. Not only is it in line with the equality values that the world is now championing, but it also sets a precedent for other African countries where homosexuality can still amount to imprisonment or the death penalty.
Even better, not only is homosexual activity decriminalised, the new penal code criminalises those who discriminate on the grounds of someone being LGBT. Individuals found guilty of discrimination on this basis could face up to two years in prison.
Protection, prevention and punishment, Angola has been thorough in this reform and it is hoped that it will help to drastically improve the lives of those concerned. Moreover, Angola, led by President Joao Lourenco since 2017, is seeking to implement positive changes and make amends with the international community which has long frowned upon Angola’s human rights records. This reform may be the first of many great things for human rights coming from this Southern African country.
Since 2004, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, the Seychelles and Mozambique have also decriminalised homosexual activity and now we can add Angola into the mix. It is hoped that other African constitutions will follow by example. It is more important than ever to make an example of these countries. Whilst there is definite headway being made towards acceptance and LGBT equality in Africa, some are reluctant to back down. In Uganda homosexuality is already punishable by seven years in prison, yet since 2014 MPs have been pushing to increase this to a life sentence punishable by death. This makes it more important than ever to spread awareness, praise, and support when a country chooses to overhaul their colonial era LGBT laws. For now we are one country down, sixty eight more to go.