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Gabon has just voted to make gay sex legal

Gabon has just voted to make gay sex legal

  • The vote has passed the lower house of parliament but now needs approval from the Senate.
The sea front at Libreville, Gabon’s capital.

Gabon’s National Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize homosexuality in a vote yesterday.

48 lawmakers in the National Assembly voted to make gay sex legal. Meanwhile just 24 voted against and 25 others abstained.

The government put forward the chance to revise the 2019 penal code in the country that criminalized ‘sexual relations between people of the same sex’. The law punished male and female same-sex activity with up to six months prisons and large fines of CFA 5million ($8,600 €7,600).

Now reports suggest the revision will go to the Senate. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party has a large majority in both houses.

However, not everyone is pleased with the change. One lawmaker who voted against told Reuters: 

Forty-eight lawmakers have shaken an entire nation and its customs and traditions.’

LGBT+ rights in Gabon

In fact, the lawmaker is wrong about Gabon’s history and culture.

Before colonisation, history suggests Gabon accepted and even celebrated LGBT+ people.

Indeed, homosexual intercourse was known as ‘bian nkuma’ among the Bantu speaking Pouhain farmers in present day Gabon and Cameroon. They considered it a kind of medicine as they believed sexual activity between men created wealth.

Moreover the country, which sits on the Equator on the west coast of Central Africa, has been more tolerant than some other African nations in recent times too.

It didn’t criminalize homosexuality from the time it won independence from France in 1960 through to last year. However, the age of consent was 18 for opposite-sex acts and 21 for same-sex activity.

Meanwhile, multiple reports have found LGBT+ people face discrimination and violence. The LGBT+ community currently have no legal rights or protections. Same-sex marriage remains illegal.

Gabon has a population of around 2.1million people.

Edwin Sesange, director of the African Equality Foundation, welcomed the National Assembly’s decision:

‘We welcome this vote from the representatives of the people of Gabon in the country’s parliament.

‘This vote is not only against criminanilization of LGBTIQ+ people but also against structure of hatred, persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in Gabon.

‘We call upon the Gabon government to expeditiously implement this vote.

‘The LGBTIQ+ people in Africa deserve more love and Gabon is systematically and steadily moving towards that. We call upon other African countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda to follow suit.’