[UPDATE: Apparently Nicaragua was NOT the last Spanish-speaking Latin American country with a sodomy statute. In following up the Nicaragua story, reporter Rex Wockner has unearthed a law in Panama that still penalizes gay sex. Read about it here]
In a surprising and historic development when it comes to LGBT rights in the region, gay Nicaraguans woke up yesterday to the news that consensual sex with their partners will no longer be a crime as of March of 2008.
In adopting a new national penal code on Monday, the Nicaraguan National Assembly sidestepped the longstanding law that penalized sodomy between members of the same-sex with up to five years in prison by overwhelmingly voting to approve a new civil code that simply did not mention it.
In doing so it removed the last anti-gay sodomy statute in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries (I believe that Belize and Guyana are now the only countries in the American continent that still have such statutes and I invite others to correct me if that is not the case).
Nicaragua's La Prensa reported on Tuesday that the elimination of the sodomy statute had been a surprise to most observers but not to representatives who were involved in drafting the language of the new code.
The president of the Nicaraguan Parliament's Commission of Justice and Legal Issues, José Pallais, explained that legislators had sought to "modernize" the penal code by not using it to regulate behavior based on the State's moral codes but by strictly addressing legal violations.
"We are not creating a Code of the Catholic Church here," he said, "we are creating a democratic Code under modern principles and principles of legality."
Nevertheless Pallais expressed dismay that another measure, seeking to relax laws penalizing abortions did not get enough legislative support to pass.
According to La Prensa the new Penal Code will go into effect on March of 2008.
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