Love triumphs over prejudice in Angola

27 January 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

Keep love in your heart, said Oscar Wilde. A life without it is like a sunless garden where the flowers are dead. Victorian England, Nazi Germany, modern-day Uganda and certain evangelical churches would agree - so long as it didn't apply to gay people. For them, there could only be disdain, hatred and even death. Human rights stopped where homosexuality began.
As gay rights came to the fore in the late 20th century, and more countries started to recognise civic rights and same-sex unions, a concomitant intolerance emerged in parts of Africa, seeded by colonial laws and fuelled by US churches and conservative politicians. In some parts of the world today, people do not bat an eye at your sexual orientation. In other parts, it may mean a cruel and brutal death at the hands of strangers who think you are a scourge to be eradicated.
Which is why we welcome Angola's decision to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and to remove the "vices against nature" provision in its penal code. Human Rights Watch said that people who refuse to employ or provide services to people based on their sexual orientation could even do time.
The continent that gave rise to Ubuntu is slowly turning its back on attitudes that exclude and shame many of its citizens, and rather embracing them as fully fledged members of society.
To be sure, there is still a long way to go. Even in SA, where a court declared sodomy laws unconstitutional in 1998, gay and lesbian people still encounter prejudice and violence. But the path towards a more tolerant society has been lit. In the words of judge Jonathan Heher of the Johannesburg high court, who made the ruling: "Constitutionally, we have reached a stage of maturity in which the dignity and innate worth of every member of society is not a matter of reluctant concession, but is one of easy acceptance."
We hope more African countries with follow Angola's lead.

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