Mozambique discovers its gay minority

The issue of homosexuality is being discovered in Mozambique, where the existence of gays is described as “a reality.” While homosexuality surely is not a matter largely concerning citizens, organisations in defence of the rights of this minority are being established, and politicians do not rule out future legal pro-gay reforms.

Still not officially registered, Mozambique new gay rights movement already counts on 15 members from each province. After constituting, the group plans to fight for its grand aim – the end of discrimination against people of a minority sexual orientation in Mozambique.

The city of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, is the place where the largest number of this minority is concentrated. This, according to the homosexual group’s leaders, is because here, people are generally most open towards the issue. This month, as a first step, the group is to publish an “informative and educational” journal to enlighten Mozambicans.

Danilo da Silva, one of the members of the emerging organisation, told the Mozambican independent weekly ‘Savana’ that the group still is in a phase of organising members, which includes sympathisers, parents and friends. “Our intention is not to fight for the legalisation of same-sex marriages, but for recognition of our rights by the Mozambican society,” he said.

In Mr Silva’s view, it is a fact that homosexuals exist in different layers of Mozambican society, although society at large disapproves of homosexual behaviour. This, he believes, is due to conflicts with religious beliefs, masculinity values, reproduction and continuity of family, among others factors.

But Mr Silva also holds that Mozambican society is not rejecting so much the sexual orientation of a person as such, but rather the expression of this sexuality, such as sexual act or affection and the establishment of homosexual relationships. Due to pressure from society, he says, most gays live a semi-open or semi-closeted life, keeping their sexual orientation secret.

“We have a different sexual orientation – not due to choice, but due to nature,” he explains. “Some of us choose to reveal this sexual orientation by leading a life that differs nothing from other members of society, meaning to love, living one’s love out freely, be happy and, in many cases, establish a stable, loving and healthy family.” Therefore, he says, “we only ask them to respect our rights and to give us freedom to feed on the joy our souls long for.”

A recent and still unpublished study on homosexuality conducted in several provinces by the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) is documenting to which degree citizens have knowledge of homosexuals in Mozambique. LDH interviewed around 800 persons in Maputo, Beira, Quelimane and Nampula, most of them from higher social classes.

The study revealed that the expected taboo of homosexuality in Mozambique has vanished. Among the questioned – in the age group between 18 and 56 – 80 percent confirmed having at least one homosexual friend. Even 96 percent said they personally knew at least one homosexual person, the LDH survey revealed.

Yet, discrimination is widespread. A 25-year-old member of the new group, recently graduated in law and wanting to stay anonymous, told ‘Savana’ he had experienced discrimination based on his sexual orientation. He holds that Mozambican society still does not act peacefully towards homosexuality, leading to discrimination in the family, at school and at work.

Nevertheless, the source says he is happy and grateful for the support he had been given by his parents, friends and colleagues, which, he however says, had not been easy to achieve. “I was even taken to a psychologist, which did not have any meaning as I cannot escape realities. But this helped make my parents accept me for who I am.”

Another youngster of 28 years, father of a daughter, also wanted to speak anonymously about discrimination. He had been married to a woman, following social pressure. Sustaining one year, he found he was not fit to live with a women, sought a divorce and found himself a new partner that fitted into his reality.

Now, forces are uniting to fight this discrimination. The Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) recently arranged an open debate on homosexuality in Maputo, with the principal aim of creating a national dialogue around the sexual minority and about the civil rights of homosexual citizens.

According to LDH law expert Custódio Duma, homosexuality is not mentioned in Mozambican law books – which only penalise “practices against nature”. To prove this, LDH was planning to present three test cases before the courts, where gays had lost their employment due to their sexual orientation. Mr Duma points out that LDH is not into promoting homosexuality, but to “defend the rights of homosexuals.”

Even Mozambican politicians avoid the “un-African” brand mark of homosexuality expressed by colleagues in Zimbabwe and Uganda. Contacted by ‘Savana’, MP Francisco Muchanga of the ruling Frelimo party would not rule out softened legislation. But before any outspoken legalisation of homosexuality, more profound studies of the matter should be carried out, he said.

“Mozambican society is composed by different layers – farmers, religious congregations, the urban young – and for that reason it is necessary that the dialogue over the issue goes on, as long as homosexuality still is not identified as part of Mozambican traditions and culture,” said Mr Muchanga.

Compared to most Southern and East African nations, homosexuality is still treated light-handedly in Mozambique. In Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya, homosexuality is illegalised and authorities have gone after gay communities. Namibian authorities have threatened the same, although homosexuality is not mentioned in the penal code. Only South Africa – with its rea5t cultural influence over Mozambique – is different. Here gays have constitutional rights and can marry and adopt children.

By Salane Muchanga
Source – afrol News