Neven Mimica, the EU commissioner for International Cooperation and development, who signed €75 million with President Adama Barrow on Thursday, told journalists that scraping of the anti-gay laws from country’s statute books was part of their dialogue with Barrow.
“It is a human right-based (aid) package… Homosexuality was one of the reasons why the political dialogue and the development cooperation didn’t work in the previous administration… Now we are to look into these issues with the president,” Mimica told journalists.
EU is the Gambia’s main development partner and it hopes that the aggravated homosexuality passed by the former regime will be under discussion.
The issue is sure to come up as part of laws to be reformed and in discussions at the article 8 political dialogue, as part of the Cotonou Agreement with nations like The Gambia.
President Adama Barrow ran his campaign on an agenda for economic growth and democratic change and whatever change he would make, development partners expect it to stem out of this democratic agenda.
Gambia has one of the harshest anti-gay laws in Africa, “aggravated homosexuality”, which carries punishments of up to life in prison.
Among those who could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” are “serial offenders” and people living with HIV who are deemed to be gay or lesbian.
Exactly what constitutes “homosexuality” or a “homosexual act” is not defined in Gambian law making Gambia’s criminalization of the act – which already violates international law – even more likely to be used broadly and arbitrarily.
Memica said they will most likely start giving Gambia a budget support starting summer this year but the criteria for such is to be set later with the help of EU mission in Gambia, IMF and World Bank.
One of the contentious issues between Banjul and the European Union has been the issue of gay rights.
Barrow, it appears, will not change position as he would suggest to journalists on Thursday when asked if he is ready to take a softer position on gay rights.
“Homosexuality is not an issue in Gambia,” a visibly uncomfortable Barrow said after a brief hesitation during a signing ceremony with EU Commissioner Mimica.