The bill amending the criminal code was passed last month and brings life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality”, minority leader Samba Jallow said. The charge is levelled at repeat offenders and people living with HIV/Aids.
Jallow said that, while his National Reconciliation Party did not condone homosexuality, he voted against the bill along with one other lawmaker. “In our view, [homosexuals] did not commit a crime worthy of life imprisonment or any treasonable offense,” he said.
Homosexual acts were already punishable by up to 14 years in prison under a Gambian law that was amended in 2005 to apply to women in addition to men.
The bill now awaits approval by president Yahya Jammeh, an autocratic ruler who in 2008 instructed gay men and lesbians to leave the country or risk having their heads cut off.
Speaking on state television in February, Jammeh said, “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
National Assembly speaker Abdoulie Bojang confirmed the new bill was passed last month but would not provide further details.
A draft seen by the Associated Press contains language identical to a controversial anti-gay bill signed into law in Uganda earlier this year.
In addition to “serial offenders” and people living with HIV/Aids, both pieces of legislation say examples of “aggravated homosexuality” include when the suspect engages in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person or is “in authority over” him or her.
Gambia has previously launched occasional crackdowns on the country’s gay people. A 2012 raid at a poolside birthday party in the capital, Banjul, led to the arrests of 18 men, some of whom said they were interrogated and beaten before undergoing a public trial that destroyed their reputations.
Source: The Guardian