Progressive legislation in the context of generalised conservative public opinion: The case of LGBT rights in Mozambique
In June 2016, pictures of a "gay wedding" were shared on social media in Mozambique. Many reactions were conservative and against the "marriage". The outrage and adverse reactions were surprising for a country that is turning away from conservative trends against homosexuality with relatively progressive legislation.
In 2014, a former Mozambican president wrote an open letter that made headlines, requesting African leaders not to discriminate against sexual minorities. In 2015, the country finally removed obsolete and vague provisions that criminalised consensual same-sex relations from its penal legislation. This reinforced Mozambique's status as being progressive toward LGBT rights. Yet, repeatedly research has shown that public, religious, and political opinion is generally unfavourable towards homosexuality. In addition, since 2008, the only LGBT organisation in Mozambique has been denied the right to register. State entities refrain from signing the authorisation without providing any justification.
This paper analyses the mechanisms that allow progressive legislation in a country harbouring generalised conservative attitudes towards homosexuality. The chapter is based on the analysis of empirical data (25 interviews carried out with key actors in Mozambique in 2016; and three rounds of surveys applied in 2019, 2020 and 2021) as well as on the analysis of literature, and selected media content. We attempt to make sense of the contradicting nature of the country's relationship with its LGBT population. Occasional openness from the government and diversity of thought among key actors suggests that alleged African conservatism may at times be overstated. We argue that such institutional openness can be used to overcome perceived deep-seated prejudice of individuals and allow for further progress towards LGBT rights.
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