Why doesn't the decriminalization of same sex sexuality and sex work ensure rights? : the legality and social acceptance of transgressive sexualities in urban Mozambique.
Aantjes, Carolien Jeanette.
Poku, Nana K.
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Background: The dependence on the law to direct people’s behaviour is known for its imperfections, yet it has become a mainstream response to social problems in modern day society. It is also the pathway through which internationally-recognised rights obligations, including sexual rights, are anticipated to diffuse across distinctly different societies. We studied the introduction of new legal standards in Mozambique, with an interest in their ability to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) people and sex workers. Methods: Between 2019 and 2020, we conducted sixteen key informant interviews with jurists, policymakers, and civil society advocates at national level and seventy-eight interviews with opinion leaders from local communities in three urban sites situated across Northern, Central, and Southern Mozambique. Results: The new legal standards, in which same-sex sexuality and sex work are no longer criminalised, found little resonance with intersecting religious, sexual, gender, and socio-cultural norms. Whilst there was a consensus not to discriminate, sensitisation and rehabilitation of LGBTI people and sex workers were considered imperative. This stance, coupled with a continued presence of ambiguous language in and incongruences between legislative pieces, attenuates the country’s commitment to internationally recognised rights obligations. Conclusions: In a context of weak civilian awareness and support, the legal reforms are not likely to make a profound positive impact on the lives of LGBTI people and sex workers. Policy action should extend beyond health and law enforcement institutions and draw in community leaders to mediate the social processes that undercut the universality of rights.