By Paul Canning
The African country of The Seychelles has agreed to decriminalise homosexuality. The agreement is part of the country's feedback to the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. The Pacific Island nation of Palau also agreed to decriminalisation.
The Seychelles will also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The government said:
The Constitution of Seychelles makes provision for all persons to be free from discrimination on all grounds. Article 27 of the Constitution states that “Every person has a right to equal protection of the law including the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in this Charter without discrimination on any ground except as is necessary in a democratic society.” The one provision in the Penal Code for “sodomy” does not directly discriminate homosexuals as it is intended for penalizing the offence of sodomy as such. In any case this provision has never been applied against anyone.Pressed on what the timeframe is for change, the second Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sandra Michel, answered that 'the change of relevant laws would come pretty soon, as the government and civil society want so.'
The Government will decide as to when and to what extend the legislation could be
amended to better guarantee the Constitutional precept that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons are not to be discriminated in Seychelles.
The Seychelles sodomy law is a relic of the British Empire. Seychellois are 82% Roman Catholic. One third of the workforce are employed in tourism.
Other countries told the UN that they would not be decriminalising.
Sierra Leone said no need as 'there was no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation' in their country.
Singapore said no and blamed a 'conservative society' and also claimed that 'LGBT persons did not have to hide their sexual orientation for fear of losing their jobs or for fear of prosecution'. Saint Vincent and Grenadines said that sodomy laws "all enjoyed wide popular support in the State and there was no legislative appetite to repeal any of these provisions."
Also rejecting decriminalisation was Suriname, they said: “Debate with religious authorities and other groups regarding the extension of special rights to LBGT individuals, is necessary." They also claimed no knowledge of discrimination. But they agreed with a NGO representative present in Geneva to discuss LGBT issues further when back home. Samoa also cited Christianity 'and culturally sensitivities' but claimed that any case which reached the court would be thrown out anyway because of 'discrimination'.
The Solomon Islands said they would consider budgeting for a national consultation on decriminalisation. Papua New Guinea claimed they are already consulting.
No NGOs bothered asking the Somalia or Sudanese governments about LGBT issues.
Criminalisation of homosexuality within the Commonwealth is an issue which activists are hoping to get into the agenda of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit. If you live in a Commonwealth nation you can help with the lobbying effort.