Angola legalises gay rights group in national first

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"Gay Pride flag"

"Gay Pride flag"

LUANDA - Angola has given legal recognition to a gay rights lobby group, sources briefed on the decision said on Wednesday, marking a major breakthrough for the closed and conservative society.

The LGBT association which was founded five years ago, called Iris Angola, called the Justice Ministry&39;s decision a "historic moment".

"We&39;re turning the page for gay citizens who now have a body that is recognised by the state which gives more weight to the work of our organisation," said Iris Angola&39;s Carlos Fernandes.

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"Good news," tweeted Human Rights Watch deputy executive programme director Iain Levine who also posted the un-dated official confirmation.

Iris, which has 200 members, is one of two gay rights groups active in Angola but the other has not yet been given legal recognition.

The oil-rich southern African country does not have any anti-LGBT laws but members of the community complain of discrimination in accessing health and education services.

Angola has been led since September by President Joao Lourenco who followed former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos after he had ruled for almost four decades.

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Lourenco has sought to distinguish himself from his predecessor and launched a campaign against corruption which has snared several officials from the last government.

He has also sought to mend fences with the international community, which has long been critical of Angola&39;s human rights record, and expressed interest in joining the Commonwealth and Francophonie communities.