Post submitted by Saurav Jung Thapa, former Associate Director, HRC Global   

The Seychelles, an island state in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, today became the latest country to decriminalize male same-sex activity. Female same-sex relations are not criminalized in the country.

The breakthrough followed years of debate, and the government’s commitment in 2011 to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council that it would decriminalize same-sex activity. The pledge came during the island state’s Universal Periodic Review before the UN.

"I am over the moon that we have finally won this long struggle,” Ronny Arnephy, Vice-Chair of LGBTI-Sey, told HRC. “Now that the bill has passed, it paves the way for same-sex marriage and adoption. Our actions won't stop here, and we will keep moving forward until we have full equality for Seychelles’ LGBTI community."

Since 1955, Section 151 of the Seychelles Penal Code has criminalized consensual same-sex activity, with penalties of up to 14 years in prison if convicted. The law was rarely enforced.

“This victory gives hope and encouragement to activists around the world,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “We congratulate the LGBTQ community in Seychelles on their watershed accomplishment, and for  joining a host of other nations, including the U.S., that have banished LGBT criminalization laws to the dustbin of history.”

With this vote, the number of countries that criminalize LGBTQ people drops to 74.

Five countries have decriminalized same-sex activity since 2011. In July 2015, Mozambique revised its Portuguese colonial-era code that criminalized same-sex sexual activity. Other countries that have decriminalized same-sex activity in recent years are Lesotho and Sao Tome and Principe in 2012, and Lebanon and Palau in 2014.

While gradual progress continues to be made, there have also been setbacks. India’s Supreme Court re-criminalized same-sex acts in 2013, overturning a lower court’s 2009 ruling to decriminalize by “reading down” the notorious Section 377, which had been declared unconstitutional.

This decriminalization vote follows the release of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and Logo entertainment’s historic report on global attitudes towards LGBTI people. The report found that 53 percent of respondents say that being LGBTI should not be a crime. This is the first survey showing that a majority of the world’s population supports the decriminalization of same-sex activity.

Filed under: International

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