Seychelles Votes To Decriminalize Homosexuality

"A sin is not determined by the government, but by religion," said Foreign Minister Joel Morgan

The parliament of Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands off East Africa, has passed an amendment decriminalizing homosexual conduct, making it one of the few countries in Africa to do so.

President James Michel announced his intention to remove the sodomy ban in his recent State of the Nation address. The measure passed in the national assembly with 14 votes in favor, 14 abstentions and 4 absences.

Previously, Article 151 of the penal code declared any man found guilty of having homosexual sex could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. (Female homosexuality was not addressed.)

Street setting, People walking along the Market Street in Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles
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A former British colony, The Republic of the Seychelles has only 92,000 inhabitants, but it is a popular tourist destination. While the subject of homosexuality is still taboo, LGBT people do not face the level of harassment and violence they do elsewhere on the continent.

A recent poll conducted by Logo and RIWI found 43% of Africans believe homosexuality should be against the law.

“It is tolerated for the most part, and increasingly so…” according to a report from the International Refugee Rights Initiative. “As long as the homosexuality is not too evident, people usually prefer to mind their own business.”

seychelles
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Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Joel Morgan dismissed any suggestion that the government was endorsing sin. “A sin is not determined by the government, but by religion,” he said. “Each individual needs to follow his or her conscience on the issue.”

For more information about international LGBT issues, visit Logo’s Global Ally page.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery