Gambia’s National Assembly Passes Anti-Gay Bill
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that the passage of a discriminatory bill by Gambia’s National Assembly represents an alarming trend threatening the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Africans. The bill, which was passed yesterday and now awaits approval by President Yahya Jammeh, calls for life sentences for some homosexual acts determined to be “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill is similar in language and penalty to the egregious Anti-Homosexuality Act that was recently struck down in Uganda.
“This bill is part of the rising tide of homophobia in many African nations, whose government leaders are working to deny the rights of their LGBT citizens through a campaign of misinformation and discriminatory laws and policies,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The United States and the international community should continue to work closely with African human rights activists and civil society leaders to promote the protection of the human rights of all Africans.”
Gambian President Jammeh has made it clear in public statements that he would likely support anti-gay legislation, calling homosexuality one of the “biggest threats to human existence.” During a recent speech marking Gambia’s Independence Day, President Jammeh stated, “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement following this speech stating that “The United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh,” and calling on on the Government of Gambia to “protect the human rights of all Gambians.”
The Gambian bill seeks to subject those convicted of participating in consensual homosexual sexual relationships to the same sentence as those convicted of pedophilia, familial sexual abuse, or knowingly infecting a partner with HIV. The bill is narrower than its Ugandan predecessor in that it does not include any provisions to target clinics or support systems for LGBT Gambians.
Recently, global human and civil rights proponents rejoiced as the Ugandan Supreme Court ruled that the country’s that controversial Anti-homosexuality act was unconstitutional. The law, now removed, sought to eradicate support networks for LGBT Ugandans, and most notoriously, called for life imprisonment for those convicted of repeated homosexual sexual acts. Members of the Ugandan parliament have already begun efforts to introduce a new similar bill to replace the law that was recently struck down.
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to demonstrate leadership on the rights of LGBT people worldwide by working to stop passage of further discriminatory laws and promote the protection of LGBT rights as human rights worldwide. Human Rights First’s African Voices for Equality Map details some of the brave leaders who are standing up for equality and dignity for all people. Human Rights First and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s recently released report provides brief country-specific overviews on the status of LGBT people in each of the Africa’s 54 nations.