Activist Jean-Luc Romero-Michel tweeted the move was “a great step forward” in the fight against state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
La loi dépénalisant l’homosexualité adoptée en #Angola en 2019 a pris effet aujourd’hui.
👉 La discrimination sur la base de l’orientation sexuelle est désormais répréhensible et même passible de prison.
— Jean-Luc Romero-Michel (@JeanLucRomero) February 9, 2021
The changes came from the first rewriting of the country’s penal code since gaining independence in 1975. Angola had previously been a colony of Portugal, and the amended laws had been a remnant of the colonial-era rule the encouraged discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
According to Human Rights Watch, the previous laws on same-sex sexual relations had been rarely prosecuted, but served as a basis for undue scrutiny and discrimination. The new law includes imprisonment of up to two years for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
At the time, passage of the new law was seen as part of a broader effort strengthening the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the country. The government had given legal status in 2018 to the advocacy group Iris Angola. The group called the move an “historic moment” in defending the rights of the community in the country.
“This is an act of sovereignty by the Angolan State which, after 134 years of being governed in the criminal and criminal fields, with a code that has been in force since 1886, from the colonial administration, now has the penal code totally inspired by political reality, legal, cultural and social Angolan,” Francisco Queiroz, minister of justice and human rights, said. at the time. “Therefore it is an aspect that must be underlined, this one of the consolidation of the national sovereignty.”
The move comes against a backdrop of continued violence against the LGBTQ+ community on the continent. In 2019, the leader of Uganda likened queer people to “terrorists” and last year police violently assaulted queer Nigerians peacefully protesting police violence against the community. Also last year, the government of Tunisia forcefully pushed back against efforts to recognize marriage equality after local officials had apparently recognized a marriage between two men conducted in France.