Johannesburg - Angola has decriminalised homosexuality after shedding the divisive “vices against nature” provision in its law, widely interpreted to be a ban on homosexual conduct, Amnesty International reported.
Taking things one step further, the government has also prohibited discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation. And so anyone refusing to employ or provide services to individuals based on their sexual orientation may face up to two years in prison, Amnesty added.
The recent changes followed Angola’s parliament adopting its first new penal code since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and removed the provision, inherited from its Portuguese colonisers.
Despite nobody being prosecuted for homosexuality in Angola, the law had previously restricted the freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people while their personal lives were scrutinised, said the international rights group.
Last year Angola gave legal status to Iris Angola, which was established in 2013 – a move that can now be seen as a forerunner for this latest step toward equality.
Hailing the move, Iris Angola called the decision historic explaining that it enabled the organisation to defend the rights of sexual minorities in Angola.
In contrast, Mozambique, another former Portuguese colony, decriminalised homosexuality in 2015, when it too adopted a new penal code, but declined to register the country’s biggest LGBT group, Lambda, leaving it to operate freely, but not legally, Amnesty reported.
Many African countries frown upon homosexuality as immoral and contrary to the continent’s culture.
Tanzania is one country where hundreds of gays have been forced into hiding following a crackdown on them towards the end of last year.
It is illegal to be gay in Nigeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Those convicted of the practice in Mauritania, Sudan, Northern Nigeria and Southern Somalia face the death penalty.
However, homosexuality is legal in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles and South Africa.