US: Gambia stripped of special trade status over anti-gay law

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The US has stripped Gambia of its special trade status, after the country introduced an anti-gay law.

Gambia had previously been afforded special benefits due to its status, under the  African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000, which allowed it to export goods worth $37 million each year to the US without paying duty.

However, it was announced yesterday that the country would be removed from the scheme, after President Yahya Jammeh signed a law punishing homosexuality with life imprisonment.

White House Spokesperson Ned Price told Buzzfeed: “The US Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process.

“In addition, in October, Gambian President Jammeh signed into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, including life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

“Reports have surfaced of arrests, detention, and torture of individuals because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Jean Freedberg of the Human Rights Campaign said: “This decision is an important first step in sending a clear signal to President Yayha Jammeh and his associates about their human rights record, and they cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of LGBT Gambians.

“The United States government should not move forward with business as usual with The Gambia when LGBT people are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed because of who they are.

“More can and should be done to hold Jammeh and his associates directly accountable for violating the basic human rights of LGBT Gambians and attacking them for pure political gain.”

Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality also praised the move, adding: “For the first time the gay community really is coming together to get equal consideration in U.S. foreign policy.”