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Posted by / 28-Dec-2020 10:56

The news was widely welcomed, and people around the world rejoiced for the progressive movement that Angola was taking in acknowledging the humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Angola.As I was reading about the decriminalisation and the banning of discrimination based on sexual orientation, I kept on thinking about John Comaroff’s words about hope, and how Angola’s move instils a sense hope with regards to LGBT politics on the African continent.Angola’s progressive stance comes months after Tanzania was reported to have searched for and rounded up LGBT people in the country.There were reports that people were being brutalized and tortured and thrown into jail.

The LGBT victory in Angola is not insignificant, considering the recent troubles in Tanzania; considering the unsuccessful introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, a bill that was widely known as the “kill the gays bill” in Uganda; considering the targeting of transgender people by the Trump administration in the United States; considering the prosecution of LGBT people by the Nigerian government; considering the continuous murder of transgender people in Brazil; considering the homophobia and physical violence still faced by LGBT people in South Africa – despite the fact that same-sex marriage is legal here; considering the rounding-up and torture of LGBT people in Russia; considering the rounding-up and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya; considering the reported story of a man who was raped, reported the rape to officials and was then subsequently charged with same-sex relations under the penal code in Tunisia, a code that carries the penalty of 4 years in prison.

Of course, one has to be cautiously optimistic because we know that decriminalisation and the banning of discrimination based on sexual orientation is only addressing part of the problem.

Decriminalisation changes laws, but not hearts: there is much work to be done to transform families and communities where LGBT people actually live and experience everyday harassment, discrimination and sometimes violence.

Groups like Iris Angola Association (Associação Íris Angola), that is now legally operating in Angola, are visible and empowering LGBT people.

The kind of work done by Iris Angola Association can only strengthen as the populations they are working with are no longer constructed as “breaking the law.” One of the biggest impacts that decriminalisation does is to afford LGBT organisations space to do the kind of work that is necessary to empower LGBT youth and LGBT communities.

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