The local group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI Sey) is seeking to be accepted by society in Seychelles and respected for their sexual orientation, said the vice chair of the organisation.

Until June 2016, Section 151 of the Penal Code banned male same-sex intercourse with up to fourteen years imprisonment. Female same-sex sexual acts were not covered by Section 151 or any other criminal law of the Seychelles.

In October 2011, the Government agreed to decriminalize same-sex sexual acts “pretty soon, as the Government and civil society want so.” On 29 February 2016, the Government decided to introduce a bill to this effect. The National Assembly was expected to consider the measure within a few months. Attorney General Ronny Govinden ruled out a referendum on the issue. The bill was approved on 18 May 2016, in a 14-0 vote. It was signed into law by President James Michel on 1 June and took effect on 7 June 2016.

The Seychelles does not recognize same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions.

In June 2015, two men, a British national and a Seychellois national, were married at the British High Commission by Lindsay Skoll, the British High Commissioner to the Seychelles.

A married couple or a single person may adopt a child.

The Employment Act, 1995 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This prohibition was added to the Act in 2006.

The Act provides as follows:

Section 2. In this act –

“harassment” means any such unfriendly act, speech or gesture of one person towards another person that is based on the other person’s … sexual orientation … as would adversely affect the other person’s dignity or make that person feel threatened, humiliated or embarrassed;

Section 46A. (1) Where an employer makes an employment decision against a worker on the grounds of the worker’s … sexual orientation …, the worker may make a complaint to the Chief Executive stating all the relevant particulars.

The group was set up two years ago and was officially registered last year, but members are yet to be accepted, said Ronny Arnephy.

Arnephy told SNA that Seychellois with different sexual orientations are targets of discrimination and “we want Seychelles to be a country where all people are accepted and affirmed, regardless of their sexual orientation or their gender.”

He said that when this happens,

“LGBTI people will be able to live happy and healthy lives where they can be model citizens, be productive and contribute to the growth and economy of the islands.”

Arnephy, who has been involved with the gay community since 2011, and co-founded the group with Fabianna Bonne in 2015, said mass education is needed to raise awareness of the LBGTI community, who are people faced with many challenges on a daily basis.

“I know young men who have been slapped by their parents for watching what is considered as shows for women and some are ridiculed for being cross-dressers,” added Arnephy.

He said that this is resulting in lesbians and gays attempting suicide.

The main mission of the group is to provide an open, safe and inclusive space for their members.

“We do recognise that this work requires understanding, education and addressing all forms of oppression,”

The group feels that the laws of Seychelles should be reviewed to make it more inclusive. The first step in the right direction was taken last year with the decriminalisation of the act of sodomy after more than 60 years.

The law was introduced in 1955, when Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, was still a British colony and was applied in rare exceptions before 1992 in the island nation with a population of 93,000.

Arnephy said that he attended an exercise recently where the rights of unmarried couples were being discussed by the Attorney General’s office.

“I asked about the rights of same sex couples, will they be recognised or will they benefit? I was told no because it is not mentioned in the Constitution.”

The vice chair said the local group is already affiliated to a coalition of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gays and Transgender within the Indian Ocean and the Aids Rights Alliance of Southern Africa. The local group also acts as support and network for the local community.

Originated: Seychelles News Agency