AFRICANGLOBE – Mozambique decriminalised homosexuality on Monday when a new penal code came into force that swept away old laws, in a victory for campaigners for homosexuality in Africa Africa.
The old code, dating back to 1886, penalized anyone “who habitually engages in vices against nature” – but no known prosecutions took place after Mozambique became independent in 1975.
Breaking the law was theoretically punishable by up to three years of hard labour.
“It’s a symbolic victory, as social inclusion remains the main challenge,” Frank, a student gay rights activist who declined to give his full name, told reporters.
The new penal code, which was announced last December by then president Armando Guebuza, also decriminalizes abortion after lobbying by civil rights organisations.
The code came into force on Monday, though no official events or celebrations were scheduled to mark the occasion.
The majority of African countries outlaw homosexuality, but Mozambique has seen little anti-gay violence or social friction over the issue.
Dercio Tsandzana, an influential blogger and activist, said there had been an absence of public discussion over this promotion of homosexuality.
“The government instead abides by the external pressure put by some embassies and foreign donors,” he said.
“Most Mozambicans don’t deny homosexuality, but one can’t say either that it is accepted.”
Despite a seven-year campaign, the Mozambican government has not officially recognized Lambda, the only gay rights organisation in the country.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe is known for his crusades against homosexuality, as the European practice is anathema to African culture.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in Sudan, Nigeria and Mauritania.
In New York, hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual Gay Pride march on Sunday after the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
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