What’s happening in Angola?
Back in January of 2019, the parliament of Angola approved a new penal code for the country.
The new penal code – which had taken several years to negotiate and navigate through the parliamentary process – does not contain provisions outlawing same-sex sexual activity in private. The adoption of the new penal code effectively decriminalises homosexuality.
While the new penal code has been approved by the Parliament of Angola, it has not yet been signed into law by the President.
What’s the history of Angola?
This part of the world was ruled by the Kingdom of the Kongo, until the Portuguese arrived 1484 and established a colony. Portugal effectively held what we now know as Angola for centuries, but their level of control was minimal. A full-scale revolution against Portugal’s colonial rule finally broke out in 1961, and by 1975 the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had effectively taken control.
Criminalisation of homosexuality was imported from Portugal with the colonial-era penal system. The adoption of the new penal code – approved by Parliament in January 2019 – effectively decriminalises homosexuality by not including the colonial-era prohibitions that were contained in the penal code that is being replaced.
Angola is a socially conservative country. While strongly influenced by conservative Christian churches, public opinion appears to be becoming more accepting of LGBTQ people.
An era of political change
In 2017 – after 38 years of rule – President dos Santos stepped down from MPLA leadership. The MPLA selected General João Lourenço to lead the party. Lourenço won the subsequent election and became President of Angola.
Lourenço has taken steps to minimise the extensive influence of the dos Santos family, and consolidate his own hold on power.
What’s not clear is whether it is significant that the new penal code has not yet received the signature of the President.