HRC Condemns The Gambia’s Passage of Horrific New Anti-LGBT Legislation

by Ianthe Metzger

Life in prison among new punishments, includes ‘identical’ language to law passed in Uganda earlier this year

WASHINGTON––Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, condemned the decision by The Gambia’s legislature to pass horrific new legislation that would lead to life in prison for some LGBT people in the country.

According to multiplenewsreports, The Gambia’s National Assembly passed legislation that includes nearly identical language to Uganda’s Anti-HomosexualityAct, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in February. The Gambian legislation includes life sentences for those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” or are considered “repeat offenders,” among other charges. The legislation now awaits the signature of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has a deeply troubling record on LGBT rights.

In 2008, Jammeh promised"stricter laws than Iran" against LGBT people, and said he would "cut off the head" of LGBT people living in the country.  Earlier this year, he said that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

“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,” said Ty Cobb, HRC’s Director of Global Engagement.  “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 U.S. 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."

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration conducted such a review of Uganda following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February, and imposed a series of concrete actions that held the Ugandan government and leaders in it accountable for it.

"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," said Cobb.  "But it's very important to note that this is a global problem, not an African one.”

Although Uganda’s law was ruled unconstitutional in August based on a procedural technicality, it’s possible that the nation’s legislature could begin consideration of a new law soon.

Jammeh attended President Obama’s U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in August. In advance of the summit, HRC Foundation and Human Rights First released a joint report that provides brief country-specific overviews on the status of LGBT people in each of the continent’s 54 nations.

In December 2011, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum in which he directed “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”  In addition, the memorandum outlines that our nation’s “deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.” 

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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