On 23rd January last year, Angola decriminalised “homosexual” relationships and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. News outlets in both Angola and Portugal described the legislation as a step forward into modernisation – which has been a long-time goal for Angola since gaining independence in 1975. Despite the country’s state of transition and religious beliefs, on 15th June last year many residents gathered in Commons Park to watch as the LGBTQI community ecstatically celebrated the first pride parade.
133 years ago, while a Portuguese colony, Angola introduced a legal bill banning same-sex relations. The “vices against nature” provision in its law ultimately meant same-sex couples or those caught in a sexual act with someone of the same gender would face incarceration. Up until the legislation lifted many faced discrimination and lived life anonymously, never having access to healthcare or education.
Despite Angola’s past handling of same-sex couples, four years ago the first LGBTQI festival, FESTÍRIS, took place. The event aimed to create a space where members of the community could meet, share and raise awareness of their challenges. According to Amnesty, the success of the event shined a light on how communities should highlight their issues for maximum results. The aftermath resulted in annual gatherings, including last year’s which took place on 17th May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Last year was a pivotal moment for the citizens and residents of Angola, after years of disdainful treatment, the success of the ban lift showcases the importance of raising your voice even when the repercussions of doing so may result in disownment, which is something the youth have not taken on lightly.