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Angola Exempts Homosexuality from Punishment and Prohibits LGBT Discrimination
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of January 27, 2019) On January 23, 2019, after years of legal uncertainty, the Angolan Parliament adopted a new penal code with 155 votes in favor, one vote against and seven abstentions. The 473 articles of the new code no longer contain a ban on “vices against nature”. In addition to legalizing homosexuality and same-sex relationships, the representatives have also introduced homophobic discrimination as a crime in Angolan law. The new Angolan penal code will enter into force 90 days after its adoption, i.e. at the end of April 2019.
Human Rights Watch welcomes in a statement the repeal of homophobic colonial law by the new Angolan penal code.
Article 7 of the Angolan Constitution had previously punished any “custom” that could violate “the dignity of the human being”. It served to justify the criminal law of the colonial period, which had entered into force 133 years ago and had not been repealed since. It punished “vices against nature” and because of its vague wording also prohibited homosexuality and homosexual relationships between consenting adults.
This amendment to the Penal Code means not only that homosexuality is no longer a crime, but also that homophobia is now considered as one. Articles 71 and 172 of the Angolan Penal Code now define “discrimination based on race, color, ethnic origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation,” etc. as a criminal offence.
Anyone who denies a person a job or a benefit on the basis of their sexual orientation may be punished with a prison sentence of up to two years.
The Íris Angola Association was not approved until five years after its creation. (screenshot)
For the second time in less than a year, the Angolan government has sent a strong and positive signal to the LGBT community: On 12 June 2018, the Ministry of Justice had finally authorized Íris Angola as an LGBT self-help group.
On the other hand, Angolan parliamentarians have not yet adapted Article 20 of the Civil Code, which defines marriage as “a voluntary union between a man and a woman”, to the new constitution.
Of the five former Portuguese colonies in Africa, Angola is now the last state to decriminalize homosexual relations. In Guinea-Bissau, same-sex relationships have been legal since 1993, in Cape Verde and São Tomé since 2004 and 2012 respectively. Like Angola, Mozambique has also decriminalized homosexuality by adopting a new penal code (2015). However, Mozambique steadfastly refuses to recognize Lambda, the most prominent local LGBT association.
The Canadian government has long warned “LGBTQ tourists” of the risks of travelling to Angola. Interestingly, this warning was still online on January 27, 2019.
Comment: The new Angolan penal code shows progress on the one hand, but also setbacks on the other. In any case, the authorities, the police and the judiciary still have to implement the provisions of the new Penal Code on recognition of homosexuality and discrimination against homophobia.
On the other hand, the new Angolan penal code tightens sanctions against voluntary abortion while allowing for certain rare exceptions that could legitimize abortion (Article 156). The text adopted by parliamentarians also contains several provisions strengthening the role of religion: it is now punishable to prevent religious ceremonies or funerals.
This promises to be quite difficult for the Angolan courts. Suppose someone comes into a church and interrupts the homophobic sermon of a pastor. Who will be arrested, the homophobic preacher or the demonstrators? Lawyers will then have to weigh facts and assess proportionality, which will certainly not be easy.