The government of the Seychelles will remove homosexual acts from its penal code. A bill to arrange this will be introduced to the National Assembly, the Parliament of the Seychelles.
The Council of Minister decided to decriminalise homosexual acts. President James Michel (People's Party) made this public in his annual State of the Nation speech in parliament. President Michel wants ‘people to be free of discrimination,’ wording that literally can be found in the Constitution of the country.
At the moment, article 151 of the Criminal Law penalises a man that has active ‘unnatural corporal intercourse’ with another man, and a man that lets another man have ‘unnatural corporal intercourse’ with him. A judge can sentence someone to a maximum of fourteen years in prison for these ‘crimes’.
This article of the Penal Code was introduced in 1955, when the Seychelles were a British colony. In recent years, however, the country did not have an active prosecution policy in place. Lesbian relationships are not punishable on the basis of this article.
In 2011, the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva already pointed out that the article is contrary to a number of international human rights treaties the Seychelles also signed, and that it is contrary to the Constitution of the country, which states that all inhabitants should be able to live ‘free of discrimination’. The Seychelles then promised to strike the article ‘when the country and its inhabitants are ready to do so’. Apparently, the moment has arrived for President Michel.
The Minister of Justice, Ronny Govinden, has been given the task to implement the decision of the Council of Ministers. The Minister rejects the idea of organising a referendum on this. A vote in parliament should suffice for changing the article. Govinden expects that the National Assembly will approve the bill.
The Seychelles are an African archipelago of 115 islands, and has approximately 93,000 inhabitants. Tourism is an important source of income. Striking the article is a good step in the right direction, but it does not make the Seychelles an LGBT friendly country by far.