The decriminalisation of homosexuality has come into force today in Mozambique.
While the law had not been enforced since the African country gained independence in 1975, it was still technically illegal to be “habitually engage[d] in vices against nature.”
It was a hangover from colonial Portuguese codes, dating from 1886, and theoretically punished homosexuality with three years hard labour, institutionalisation in mental health facilities or disbarment from professional life.
Activist and blogger Dercio Tsandzana told AFP: “The government instead abides by the external pressure put by some embassies and foreign donors.
“Most Mozambicans don’t deny homosexuality, but one can’t say either that it is accepted.”
Frank, a student activist, agrees: “It’s a symbolic victory, as social inclusion remains the main challenge.”
Same-sex relations are still officially punishable by death in Nigeria, Sudan and Mauritania.
Mozambique’s neighbouring country of Zimbabwe is still largely hostile to LGBT people, but South Africa, to Mozambique’s south, is often considered to be leading the way on LGBT rights in Africa.
Lamda, Mozambique’s largest LGBT rights group has been fighting for official recognition for many years, and they are currently campaigning for non-discrimination laws in the country. While homosexuality may now be legal, that does little to prevent violence and discrimination against LGBT people