The Seychelles has taken huge steps to legalize homosexuality.
Politicians in the 115-island African country of 93,000 people have agreed to end the law that punished gay sex between males by up to 14 years in prison.
The Seychelles’ cabinet met on Monday (29 February) and approved legislation that will strip the ban on homosexuality from the Penal Code.
This will bring the nation in line with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which requires protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The country’s politicians agreed they would first do this in 2011.
President James Michel has said he wants to see the law changed to allow ‘all persons be free from discrimination on all grounds’.
The Seychelles Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Barry Faure said: ‘Seychelles was committed in 2011 to review the law on homosexuality and this had not been done.
‘Britain questions us saying that we have not made progress on this issue.’
While the government has claimed no person has ever been directly prosecuted under the sodomy laws, with rare exceptions, it has affected the LGBTI community in other ways such as police brutality and damaging overall public opinion of gay rights.
Attorney General Ronny Govinden has rejected the idea of a referendum, saying he expects homosexuality to be legalized simply by politicians in the National Assembly.
It is expected homosexuality will be legal in the Seychelles by the end of 2016.
Muthoni Wanyei, the Amnesty International Regional Director for East Africa, described the move as a ‘very positive step’.
‘Even though the Seychelles have not prosecuted anyone, laws like this opens up members of the gay community to extortion. We often hear tales of men being lured into a sexual relationship and then being threatened,’ she told Gay Star News.
‘The move by the Seychelles will hopefully inspire others. This will give the gay community leverage, it is another example of an African state being progressive on these issues and moving forward.’