Human rights groups have condemned the passage of a bill in the Gambia that punishes acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ with life imprisonment.
The Gambian National Assembly passed the bill last month, which now awaits approval from outspoken anti-gay President Yahya Jammeh. The bill targets ‘serial offenders’ and people living with HIV/AIDS.
‘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 Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for LGBT rights at Human Rights First.
‘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.’
Ty Cobb, director of global engagement at the Human Rights Campaign said, ‘These draconian laws have no place in the 21st century, and the United States must send a clear message – privately or publicly – to the Gambian leadership that a government must not trample on the rights of its LGBT citizens,’
‘When a bill advances that deprives LGBT people of their basic human rights, whether it be in The Gambia, Nigeria, or Brunei, the Obama Administration should conduct a full diplomatic review of the United States’ relationship with those countries. The US. government cannot move forward with business as usual when LGBT people are threatened with harassment, imprisonment, or even death because of who they are or whom they love.
‘By signing this law, President Jammeh would be riding a wave of anti-LGBT laws enacted in Africa. He has been one of the most violently vocal opponents of LGBT people – promoting stigmatization, calling them "vermin" and even calling for their death,’ Cobb said.
‘But it’s very important to note that this is a global problem, not an African one.’
Amnesty International and the Equal Rights Trust have also condemned the bill.