Mozambique decriminalises gay and lesbian relationships

lambda-website-imageMozambique has decriminalized homosexuality in its new penal code, making it one of a few African countries where same-sex relationships are legal.

The revised code drops a colonial-era clause outlawing “vices against nature”. There were no prosecutions under that clause but rights activists have said this change is a symbolic victory.

It comes as other African countries have moved to tighten anti-gay laws. In Nigeria, a law that came into force last year banned same-sex public displays of affection and introduced a possible 14-year prison sentence for gay sex. A study released on Tuesday found that 87% of Nigerians supported a ban on same-sex relations.

In Uganda, the government has pledged to introduce a new restrictive law after the last law which criminalized homosexuality was successfully challenged in the constitutional court.

Mozambique’s move to decriminalize homosexuality looks in step with recent changes elsewhere, such as Ireland and the US. The African country is also following the likes of neighbouring South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and others, where it is not a crime to be gay.

It adds to a mixed picture on the continent as the tightening of laws against homosexuality in some countries shows what a contentious subject gay rights is.

For Mozambique itself, this is a breakthrough but a small one. The country inherited the penal code from the colonial power, Portugal. But following independence, Mozambique didn’t blindly follow the conservative laws of old Europe. The change then is a small step forward for Africa’s lesbian and gay community.

But in many places, whether homosexuality is legal or not, the real question is about ordinary people’s attitude to gay people, which can still be hostile.

Mozambican rights activists say that the changes in their country could have an impact elsewhere on the continent.

“I am sure that African countries will look at their old laws and see that this is an important step to guarantee that society is free and equal,” Danilo Da Silva, head of the Mozambican gay rights group Lambda, told the BBC.

Historically Mozambique has seen little violence towards gay and lesbian people, BBC Mozambique analyst Zenaida Machado says. But, she adds, same-sex relationships are still a divisive subject in a country where most people are either religious Christians or Muslims. While people may be relaxed about homosexuality, many see promoting gay rights as an attack on cultural and religious practices, she says.

29 thoughts on “Mozambique decriminalises gay and lesbian relationships

  1. *Buys ticket to Mozambique* Now your country is in the news, I might as well visit and see what you have to offer.

  2. It’s 14yrs for gay marriage,not gay sex.People should get their facts right.The anti-sodomy laws are contained in the penal/criminal codes of the various states,7yrs maximum.And they weren’t specifically targeting gays either,even anal sex between husband and wife comes under its purview.
    That being said,Mozambique has always been more liberal than the average African country,even while still known as Portuguese East Africa.That law has never been given effect I’m sure,so no need having it in the books

    • So between the inherited sodomy laws and the same-sex marriage prohibition act, can you kiss a man in public? Can you even have this “gay sex” and not be deemed a criminal? What of majority of Nigerians’ attitudes towards gay persons? Balance this against the relaxed attitude of Mozambicans to same issue – like you pointed out.

      The letter of the antigay law is pretty much clear, not to speak of the vile spirit behind it. Law or not, Mozambicans are far ahead of Nigerians anyway.

      If we keep compartmentalizing the issue this way, 200 years from now, someone will try to rewrite history by claiming all was well with the Nigerian LGBT in 2015; we were only whining for nothing.

      • To get things to change here,we first need to put things in their right contexts,not have it all mushed up.The SSMPA did not criminalize gay sex as it were,but gay marriage and the support therefore.The constitutionality of that is yet to be tested,but even the proponents know that law stands on quicksand.While I believe that law should be done away with and very fast too,it is not worth crying the sky is falling for.Heck,it’s not being implemented even as I type this,only used as a scaremongering weapon.The task before us is not to keep crying wolf about the law,but to work on changing the attitude of a reasonable majority of Nigerians towards gays.That requires tact n some effort,something the Nigerian gay community greatly lacks at the moment.Like the populace at large,we generally tend to lack the courage of our convictions.
        It’s not impossible changing the attitude of a reasonable number of Nigerians,especially the youths n young adults,the average Nigerian tend to have a herd mentality.They will follow an idea,a cause,who’s leaders/propagators stand firm and are willing to give their all to what they believe in.
        Btw,going out of one’s way to antagonize those one disagree with,as we tend to do here,is not the way to go about it.

      • Oh,we weren’t kissing in public before the advent of the law,we aren’t now.Nothing is changed,but the awareness that there are gays in Nigeria.That they are sons,nephews,cousins,uncles,not some unknown people from far far land.A silver lining,some will say.

  3. Well my daddy bubu told me last nite his about to uncriminalize naijas harsh law too….*pulls blanket to cover head*cold morning after such a busy nite

  4. Another academic exercise just like the Nigerian same sex marriage prohibition act. Either ways, its a pointer towards positive change but the truth is that with or without the laws gays will always remain discreet in Africa and even in the west.

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