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Angola: Decriminalising same-sex relations a welcome step for equality

25 January 2019

GENEVA (25 January 2019) – A UN human rights expert today welcomed Angola’s decision to decriminalize same-sex relations, and urged other States to follow, saying such legislation was one of the root causes behind grave and pervasive human rights violations against gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual people.

Angola adopted a new Penal Code on 23 January, the first since decolonisation in 1975, that eliminates a provision on “vices against nature” historically linked to a ban on homosexual conduct.

“I applaud this measure by the Angolan State, which reportedly was adopted in tandem with provisions outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which shows the inextricable relation between decriminalization and the fight against discrimination,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“All other countries that still criminalize homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation and gender identity, without exception, must observe these processes of decriminalization as motivation to examine their own legal frameworks, and to bring themselves to full compliance with this human rights imperative.”

Madrigal-Borloz said that while provisions are often not used to actively prosecute cases, their mere existence creates an environment conducive to violence and discrimination. In Angola lesbians, gays, and bisexual and trans persons have denounced significant barriers in access to health, employment, education and other essential processes, all due to the perception that their very identities are criminal in nature. Dismantling criminalizing provisions is a compulsory step in the process of eradicating discrimination and ensuring that no one is left behind, he said.

Madrigal-Borloz underlined the vital contribution of civil society in the process of decriminalization of same-sex relations in Angola.

“Every time I observe a process that decriminalizes forms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I immediately see the everyday work of human rights defenders, victims, advocates and activists,” he said. “They are the ones providing their stories, compiling the evidence and carrying out the work of advocacy and persuasion so that States fully own the conclusion that the law is a key element in ensuring that every person can live free and equal.”


Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of  UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for a three years period starting on 1 January 2018. He serves as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network of over 150 rehabilitation centres with the vision of full enjoyment of the right to rehabilitation for all victims of torture and ill treatment. A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture from 2013 to 2016, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons. Prior to this he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica). 

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 22 917 93 27 / [email protected]) or Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 32 98 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 93 83 / [email protected])

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights.