Africa / Oceania

Two tiny nations drop anti-gay laws: Palau and Sao Tome

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Two tiny island nations have dropped their laws against same-sex intimacy.

Palau in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Indonesia, took that step earlier this year.

São Tomé and Príncipe, in the Atlantic Ocean off Gabon in central Africa, did so two years ago, but that fact wasn’t widely known.

In addition, the island nation of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar, has made a commitment to take the same step, but has not yet done so. Seychelles is one of a handful of countries that still have anti-gay laws on the books along with laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This blog has revised its list of countries with laws against same-sex intimacy, eliminating Palau and São Tomé / Príncipe. That brings the list’s total to 79 countries, excluding Iraq, where the situation is unclear, and Russia, where same-sex intimacy is legal, but which in 2013 adopted a repressive law against making positive statements about homosexuality in the presence of minors.

A similar tally from Human Dignity Trust lists 80 countries, including Iraq but not Russia.

PALAU

Regarding Palau, Human Dignity Trust reported:

Human Dignity Trust logo

Human Dignity Trust logo

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed that the country has decriminalised homosexuality by removing its sodomy laws.

Palau repealed its legal provisions that criminalised consensual same-sex sexual activity between gay men, introducing a new Penal Code with no such provisions, which was signed by the President in April 2014. …

The benefit of legislating, rather than litigating to do away with laws criminalising gay men means that an individual need not be forced to use the courts to uphold his rights. …

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed directly, in an email to the Human Dignity Trust, that the former crime of sodomy has been repealed and a new penal code has been adopted.According to the previous provisions, sodomy was banned under section 2803, Chapter 28 ‘Sex Crimes’ of Title 17 of the Palau National Code and was punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. …

The Government of Palau has engaged constructively with the United Nations on the issue of decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.In 2011, at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, Palau accepted the recommendations to repeal all provisions in domestic legislation criminalising consensual sexual activity between same sex adults and to combat discrimination against LGBT people through political, legislative and administrative measures.

Location of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa.

Location of São Tomé and Príncipe off the west coast of Africa.

SAO TOME / PRINCIPE

In São Tomé and Príncipe, the repeal of the former anti-gay law occurred with the adoption of a new penal code in 2012.

ILGA’s latest “State-Sponsored Homophobia” report states that the new Penal Code of São Tomé and Príncipe took effect in November 2012. It cited the Portuguese-language articles “Código Penal: Aprovado pela Lei 6/2012” and “Novo Código Penal já entrou em vigor.”

SEYCHELLES

Seychelles location in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

Location of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

The newspaper Today in Seychelles reported recently on its Facebook page about a discussion of decriminalization by LGBTI advocates, legal experts and religious leaders, who opposed it:

The context for the discussion was that “At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in 2011, the Seychelles Human Rights record was considered and Seychelles confirmed its commitment to the decriminalization of homosexual activities.” The report added:

“The British High Commissioner, Mrs. Lindsay Skoll was also present at the discussion and she said that if Seychelles went ahead and decriminalized homosexual activities, the country ‘would be making an important step from politics to humanity. Despite conservatism and the power of the church power, the step will be easy,’ she said adding that she was pleased lawyers had taken the first step towards this goal.”

In the panel discussion, one panel member noted:

“The government of Seychelles has already committed to the United Nations to repeal these laws in conformity with its international obligations.”

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