‘Aggravated homosexuality’ may carry life sentence in Gambia

The National Assembly in Gambia has passed a bill imposing life imprisonment for homosexual acts, although it is yet to be signed into effect by the country’s president.

According to Samba Jallow, the minority leader in Gambia, the bill imposes a maximum life sentence for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

Jallow added that although his National Reconciliation Party does not condone homosexuality, he voted against the bill along with one other lawmaker.

He said, ‘In our view, [homosexuals] did not commit a crime worthy of life imprisonment or any treasonable offense.’

The Associated Press saw a draft bill and reports that it contains language identical to the controversial ‘anti-gay bill’ recently signed into law in Uganda. Human Rights Watch has reported an increase in anti-LGBT+ violence in Uganda since the law was first enacted – although the law has now been struck down on a technicality.

According to the bill, ‘aggravated homosexuality’ applies to ‘serial offenders’ of homosexual acts and people living with HIV. The controversial definition also extends to homosexual acts with someone under the age of 18, someone who is disabled or someone who has been drugged. The term also applies to incest and abuse of a position of power by a parent or guardian.

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National Assembly Speaker Abdoulie Bojang confirmed the bill, which amended the criminal code’s previous maximum sentence of 14 years in jail, was passed last month. It is unknown at this stage if any additional changes were made to the draft seen by AP.

An Amnesty International spokesperson says the bill will add to ‘the climate of fear’ facing Gambia’s LGBT+ people if signed by President Yahya Jammeh. Yahya Jammeh came to power in Gambia in 1994 in a coup, and is vocal in his opposition to LGBT+ people. In 2008 he said LGBT+ people should leave the country or risk execution by decapitation.

Jammeh said in February, ‘We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.’