Human rights group: Gambian bill to jail gays is ‘devastating’

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The director of a human rights organisation has slammed a Gambian bill which will make “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life imprisonment, saying it will have a “devastating impact” on LGBT Gambians.

The law was passed by the National Assembly last month, and amends the criminal code to bring life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Responding to the National Assembly of Gambia passing the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, Dr Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust, said: “The Bill discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, denying them equal rights to which they are entitled under international law. It will have a devastating impact upon the lives of LGBT people in Gambia who, already suffering persecution, will now face the daily threat of life imprisonment.

“This Bill is part of a homophobic trend, following similar draconian legislation in Nigeria and Uganda. The Equal Rights Trust will work in solidarity with its partners in Africa and elsewhere to counteract this trend and ensure all people their rights to freedom, dignity and equality.”

The Associated Press reports that a draft bill contains identical language to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was signed into law earlier this year.

According to the legislation, “aggravated homosexuality” applies to “serial offenders”, as well as people living with HIV or AIDS.

Abdoulie Bojang said the bill had been passed by the Assembly last month.

The next step for the bill is to be signed into law by President Yahya Jammeh, who in February referred to gay people as “vermin”, saying they should be dealt with in the same way as mosquitoes which “cause” malaria.

Amnesty International says the bill will add to “the climate of fear” facing gay people in Gambia.

Same-sex activity in the country is currently punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.