Angola has just joined to the club of African countries, a score, where sexual relations between people of the same sex are not a crime. After a process that has lasted more than five years in which LGTBI associations have participated, international organizations, judges, lawyers, government technicians and MPs themselves, the law no longer punishes homosexuality and, in addition, establishes sanctions for those who discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation.
"Everything started with health", says Carlos Fernandes, president of the Iris Angola association, "to legally establish ourselves as a collective we did it under the pretext of the fight against AIDS and in collaboration with other citizen associations. We were not alone. " The aforementioned network then began to work together with the Ministries of Education, Health, Family and Youth on issues such as prevention and access to health. The bridge to the recognition of rights to the LGTBI population was beginning to be built.
As in many African countries, homophobia and transphobia are widespread in Angola. Imanni Da Silva, recognized as the first African transsexual model, has suffered numerous attacks through social networks, both before and after her sex change operation in London in 2011. "There are people who hide behind a computer to attacking others, "he says," but I can not forget that there are many people in Angola who suffer physical violence, even inside their homes. "
After the creation of Iris Angola, the next step was to open up to international support and experience. "One of our great partners was the Lambda association of Mozambique, which achieved decriminalization in 2015, as well as UNAIDS or UNDP. We did fieldwork to investigate how laws placed barriers to the LGTBI community's access to health. Then work commissions were created in Parliament where we proposed our recommendations ", explains Fernandes.
The time for politics had arrived. Angola was immersed since the end of the last decade in the drafting of a new Criminal Code to replace the then existing, which dated no less than 1886 and was imported from Portugal. In this legal text punished with six months to three years in prison to those who practice "acts against nature." Although these penalties never applied – no homosexual has been imprisoned for being so – the truth is that they had not been abolished at any time.
In those parliamentary committees, the proposals of the LGTBI community were heard and evaluated for the first time by deputies, judges, prosecutors, technicians from different ministries. "We did not want a specific law, only that our rights were recognized," adds Fernandes. "The most important thing was to remove that article from the Criminal Code and to protect the different sexual and gender orientations." According to this legislation, a homosexual could be insulted or assaulted without the person being punished for it, "he adds.
After years of discussion, new political winds propitiated the change. On August 23, 2017 presidential elections were held in Angola and for the first time in almost 40 years José Eduardo Dos Santos did not show up. The winner of these elections was Joao Lourenço, who was supported by the former president but since his arrival to power decided to distance himself from his predecessor by undertaking a fierce fight against corruption and opening new avenues of political and social participation. The land was paid to finally approve a new Penal Code.
"It was not a specific politician, it was the parliamentary majority that approved decriminalization with 155 votes in favor, seven against and two abstentions," adds Fernandes. The article was excluded, but it also sets a penalty of up to two years in prison for anyone who discriminates against a person because of their sexual orientation. However, the challenge now is the fight against homophobia. "We must continue to work raising awareness with families, police, in schools. We do not ask that they accept us, if they do not like that they keep their opinion for themselves and at least that they do not attack us, "he asks.
Imanni Da Silva agrees that "this has been a significant step but there is still a long way to go, especially in recognizing the rights of the trans community. In Angola, for example, sex change is prohibited, even in private clinics. "
The same Penal Code that decriminalizes homosexuality in Angola allows abortion in certain cases. This point was much more controversial than the decriminalization of homosexuality and in fact was one of the reasons for the blockade of its approval until 2017. Previous versions of the reform posed the possibility of interrupting the pregnancy freely until ten weeks of gestation. This option was cut and the new text guarantees it only in cases of danger to the life or health of the mother or fetus and of rape. Otherwise, abortion is considered a crime with penalties of between two and eight years in prison.