Mozambicans seek constitutional amendment to enshrine gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

An LGBT association in Mozambique has welcomed clarification of the law by the country’s justice minister at the UN, but has expressed concern that the constitution and penal code are still ambiguous on gay rights.

The Republic of Mozambique has strong equality credentials compared with some African neighbours, but campaigners are pursuing absolute clarification of its stance on homosexuality.

LAMBDA, an organisation which is not currently recognised by the state, welcomed a statement by Benvinda Levi at the UN in which she said that homosexuality was not illegal in Mozambique.

But they expressed concern over Article 71 of the Penal Code, which orders “security measures” against those who habitually commit “vices against nature”.

“Security measures”, defined in the Code, include hard labour, internment in an asylum, and debarment from professional activities.

The term “vices against nature”, which was a 1954 inclusion, is not defined, and the campaign group is concerned that without explicit protection of homosexuality, a court could rely on this clause.

While the Mozambican Constitution enshrines “the principle of universality and equality”, it does not specifically mention sexual orientation. It states that all “enjoy the same rights and are subject to the same duties, regardless of colour, race, sex, ethnic origin, place of birth, religion, level of education, social position, marital status of their parents, profession or political option”.

LAMBDA is campaigning for the words “sexual orientation” to be added to the list to prevent discrimination in future.

It is currently illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace in Mozambique, but not in other areas of life.

The republic has made many advances in the issue of gay rights aided by its media, with the state-owned news agency covering campaigns against discrimination last year. Government representatives subsequently promised to look at the situation.

A piece in the independent newspaper Savanna also discussed the issues facing a group of gay men last year without condemnation.

Mozambique shares a border with South Africa, which legalised gay marriage in 2006.