Moz lifts gay laws but queer fight goes on

Gay rights activists welcome the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Mozambique but said they still face a long struggle for full equality.

A penal code in force from last Monday erased Portuguese colonial laws dating back to 1886 that condemned anyone “who … engages in vices against nature” to three years’ hard labour. The move was largely symbolic: there have been no known prosecutions for homosexuality since Mozambique gained independence 40 years ago.

“We welcome it,” says Carina Capitine, spokesperson for Lambda, Mozambique’s only gay rights organisation that lobbied for the change. She said she doesn’t think it will bring real change for how LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people live in Mozambique. Lambda’s fought seven years for government recognition, which Capitine calls its next battle. “A lot of people ask about marriage or adoption but we can’t think about that yet. Our registration is key for us.”

Lambda has more than 40 members. It provides counselling, legal and health advice. Registration would mean access to funding and tax exemption status; it would be a step towards acceptance for Mozambique’s LGBT community. The country has a reputation for more relaxed social attitudes than many countries in Africa.

Describing Mozambican society as quite tolerant, Capitine adds: “The LGBT community is not targeted by violent acts as in some African countries. But we face discrimination.”

Public displays of same-sex affection are rare but not unknown. It depends on place and personality, says Capitine. “Some people are more open, some are more shy.”

‘We exist’

The mainstream media tend to ignore the subject but the internet has provided a platform to raise awareness. Leading activist and Mozambican blogger Dercio Tsandzana says it can’t be found in newspapers or local media, but “you can go to Facebook and find Lambda: ‘Look for us, we exist.’”

He added: “We can’t say the government is open-minded. It is one thing to open laws, another to give recognition to an organisation like Lambda. They don’t say ‘we don’t accept’; they don’t say ‘we accept’. This is about more than laws. It’s not easy – we must talk.”

Joaquim Chissano, a former Mozambican president, appealed for a change in attitudes in a letter to African leaders last year. “We can no longer afford to discriminate against people on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other basis – we need to unleash the full potential of everyone,” he wrote.

“As an African who has been around a long time, I understand resistance to these ideas. But I can also step back and see the larger course of human history, especially of the past century, is one of expanding human rights and freedoms.”

Same-sex relations are illegal in 36 of the continent’s 54 countries, according to Amnesty International, and punishable by death in Sudan, Nigeria and Mauritania. Anti-gay statements from political leaders are common in Zambia and Zimbabwe. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

David Smith
David Smith is the Guardian's Washington DC bureau chief. From 2010 to 2015 Smith was the Africa correspondent for The Guardian for which he was based in Johannesburg, South Africa
The Guardian
Guest Author

Your M&G

Hi , To manage your account please click here.

You can access your digital copy of this week’s paper here.

Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system
Advertising

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world