Last year, Mozambique decriminalized homosexuality, showing that the “homosexuality is unAfrican” script isn’t the set in stone for all African countries. The large majority of African countries have strict laws against same-sex relationships, and in some cases support of same-sex relationships. Seychelles is now the third country to decriminalize gay sex since 2012, after Sao Tome and Principe and Mozambique.

 

(BBC)

(BBC)

Last Thursday, lawmakers voted to amend a penal code which gave 14 years in jail for those convicted of sodomy. This code, as with most anti-homosexuality laws in Africa, can be traced back to British colonial rule, which in 1955 penalized anyone engaging in “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or who “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature.”  Such codes have been the basis of discrimination against LGBT persons.

 

The proposal to amend this code was put forth by President James Michel in February during his State of the Nation Address. President Michel cited the international conventions Seychelles has signed, which prohibit all discrimination. Thus, the country was obligated to fulfill their international and constitutional responsibilities. Human rights and democracy were also quoted by other politicians as the reason the penal code had to go. It was a very close vote, however as of the 28 parliamentary members present for the vote, 14 voted yes while the other half abstained. Four other lawmakers were absent and did not take part in the vote. It is important to note that there were no votes in favor of keeping the code in place.

 

Seychelles is a highly Roman Catholic nation of 115 islands off the East African coast. Predictably, church leaders raised concerns over the amendment. Those in opposition worry over moral decadence and the preservation of the Christian family, while others insist that sodomy is a sin and should not be decriminalized. In response, individual conscience was stressed over sense of morality, as religion was separated from the state here. A destination for high-end tourism, the change is also thought to be considerate of tourists visiting the islands. Still, Seychelles is among the very few African countries that now legally allow homosexuality.

 

Are countries like Seychelles setting a standard for other African countries by amending discriminatory penal laws? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta