Political Leaders in The Gambia Support Repeal of Anti-LGBTQ Law

by HRC Staff

The current law allows life sentences for “repeat offenders” or individuals found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Post submitted by Ashley Fowler, former HRC Global Coordinator

Political leaders in The Gambia have expressed interest in repealing the horrific anti-LGBTQ legislation that was signed into law by former President Yahya Jammeh in 2014. The current law allows life sentences for “repeat offenders” or individuals found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Gambia’s Foreign Secretary Ousainou Darboe explained to SMBC News, “Homosexuality was perhaps something Jammeh imagined in order to bamboozle the clerics that were surrounding him…He used gay as a propaganda tool in order for him to continue to repress people.”

He went on to say that “aggravated homosexuality was a distraction and it should be taken out of the laws.”

Darboe is the party leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), which is the country’s largest political group and was the main opposition party under the rule of Jammeh. Darboe confirmed that the UDP will also support the repealing of the law.

HRC condemned the passage of the anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2014 and called on the U.S. government to conduct a full diplomatic review of the U.S. relationship with The Gambia. Later that year, the U.S. government revoked Gambia’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives preferential trade treatment to products from certain African nations.

In 2016, when human rights violations spiked in the West African nation, HRC once again sounded the alarm, joining 15 human rights organizations in urging the U.S. government to announce sanctions against Gambian officials. Jammeh lost re-election in December 2016, after a more than 22-year reign.

Prior to his defeat, Jammeh had been one of the most aggressive opponents to LGBTQ equality, going so far as to say that he would “slit the throats” of men who wanted to marry other men in his country. Adama Barrow, the current president of The Gambia, has stated that “homosexuality has never been an issue” in his country, but it remains unclear as to whether he has plans to repeal the draconian anti-LGBTQ law passed by Jammeh.  

There are 72 number of countries around the globe that criminalize same-sex relationships. That number was reduced from 75 last year after Belize, Nauru and Seychelles decriminalized same-sex relations. Our work is not done until LGBTQ people are free to live authentic lives where they may live. We encourage President Barrow to embrace the human rights of all Gambians and support repeal efforts.