Anti-LGBT Laws Have Consequences: Gambia

Last fall Gambia passed a repressive law targeting the LGBT community, making acts of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life imprisonment. Three men were arrested in December, the first to be charged under the law. In response to this law and the overall dire human rights situation, the United States dropped Gambia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 2000, a trade agreement that allowed the small West African nation to export $37 million in goods annually to the United States duty-free.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and his government—which just put down a coup attempt—are serial human rights offenders. From the disappearances and arbitrary arrests of journalists and civil rights defenders to extrajudicial killings and torture allegations, this anti-LGBT law is only the latest in a string of abuses. In November, United Nations human rights investigators were blocked from carrying out their probe into illegal executions and the widespread use of torture.

By dropping Gambia from the AGOA, the United States is sending a strong message that the human rights of all people must be respected if their government wishes to maintain positive relations with the U.S. By showing that discriminatory laws have consequences, the State Department puts teeth to their statements in support of the global LGBT community, as it did when it announced sanctions on Uganda last year. The U.S. government should stick to this tactic as other countries consider similar homophobic legislation.


Published on January 8, 2015


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