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In long-awaited victory, Angola's only LGBT association receives legal recognition

Supporters of the Iris Angola Association. Photo: Iris Angola, used with permission.

Iris Angola, one of the few associations in Africa for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities and the only one in Angola, has had its registration accepted by the country's Ministry of Justice after a five-year wait.

The registration was announced on Iris Angola's Facebook page on June 12, 2018, during the same month that the association celebrates its five-year anniversary. In some western countries, June also marks Pride Month for people of diverse sexualities and gender identities.

In Angola, where the law is silent regarding homosexual activity, the LGBT community lives anonymously and faces discrimination when it comes to access to healthcare and education.

The executive director of Iris Angola, Carlos Fernandes, considers this to be a historic moment for the country:

Trata-se de um momento histórico e significa um virar da página para todos os cidadãos homossexuais, que passam a ter uma entidade reconhecida pelo estado, o que dá ainda maior legitimidade às suas intervenções desta organização no quadro do trabalho que desenvolve na defesa e promoção dos direitos LGBT.

This is a historic moment and it signifies turning a page to a new chapter for all homosexual citizens, who now have a state-recognized entity, which lends even greater legitimacy to this organization and their working framework to develop interventions to defend and promote LGBT rights.

The news was also applauded by the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Ian Levine, who shared the registry document:

Good news. “Angola Iris”, Angolan LGBT group, recognized as an association by the Angolan government.

The feat did not go unnoticed, receiving accolades and appreciation. In the comments under the Iris Angola post, Eridson Rudinauro wrote:

Glória a Deus… Deus no comando… Tens que enviar uma cópia autenticada para nós chefia… Agora estamos legais e podemos falar com propriedades e sem medo de nada, fazer e seguir nossas actividades legalmente, porque passaremos a pagar quota ao estado. Viva.

Glory to God… God is in charge… You need to send a certified copy to us, boss… Now we are legal and we can speak with property owners without any fear, we can conduct and continue our activities legally, because we will pay the state's quota. Hurrah.

Supporters of Iris Angola. Photo: Iris Angola, used with permission.

Meanwhile in Mozambique, the only LGBT rights association in the country, Lambda, has been waiting for more than 10 years to be registered with the Mozambican Ministry of Justice. In November 2017, a ruling from the Constitutional Council of Mozambique — equivalent to the country's Supreme Court — declared that a clause used to previously deny Lambda's registration was unconstitutional, but the Mozambican Ministry of Justice continues to leave the bid for registration unprocessed.

Iris Angola's registration, besides representing a milestone in the recognition of the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Angola, may inspire Mozambique to do the same.

The issue was raised by the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Mozambique on Twitter, noting that a new justice minister had been appointed the same week:

Lambda itself also did not miss out on rejoicing over the feat achieved by their counterpart from their neighboring country:

Berta Maria Samuel, a Mozambican youth, congratulated the accomplishment of Iris Angola in the comments of the Lambda Mozambique Facebook page and expressed her wish that such an action would also happen in Mozambique:

Não sou contra, muito pelo contrário, cada um tem direito de viver como melhor se sente, hoje foi Angola e amanhã Moçambique, Força LGBT. Parabéns Angola. Gostaria mesmo de ter amigos LGBT.

I am not opposed, quite the contrary, that everyone has the right to live as they feel best, today was Angola and tomorrow Mozambique, LGBT power. Congratulations Angola. I would really like to have LGBT friends.

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