Analysing African Advances Against Homophobia in Mozambique: How Decriminalisation and Anti-Discrimination Reforms Proceed Without LGBT Identities

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Gustavo Gomes da Costa Santos and Matthew Waites
Sexuality & Culture, Volume: 25


Mozambique experienced a ground-breaking decriminalisation of same-sex sexual acts in 2015, of importance across Africa, and this article provides the first critical analysis to situate that event in colonial and wider socio-political contexts. The struggles of peoples outside heterosexual sexuality and gender norms in the "Global South" generally occur in the tension between transnational discourses of sexual orientation and gender identity or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) human rights, and the renewal of pre-colonial forms of sexuality and gender. In sub-Saharan Africa, state homophobia has increased in many countries, but has often been analysed in former British or French colonies, making Mozambique a rare and significant case of decriminalisation in the Lusophone context shaped by Portuguese colonialism. Drawing on new data, the article investigates apparently contradictory contestations, where legislation favourable to LGBT populations (including an anti-discriminatory Labour Law) coexists with the State’s refusal to legally recognise the only LGBT association: Lambda. The Mozambique case distinctively reveals both decriminalisation and repression, partly explained by a history of relatively loose regulation of sexuality by Portuguese colonial authorities, with Christian renewals moderated by the Maoist Marxist-Leninism ideological heritage of the Frelimo party, favouring social equality without discreet political identities. This has yielded a government strategy of discursive silence accompanied by quiet reforms that avoid explicit recognition of LGBT identities. The study demonstrates insights that can be drawn from analysis concerning gender and sexuality attending to specific colonialities and political discourses in African societies.

Article published on 18th Sept 2021.