Gambia’s Foreign Secretary Ousainou Darboe says he will support the repealing of an anti-homosexual law that soured relations between the West African nation and the European Union.
Darboe said homosexuality was an imaginary issue Jammeh used to oppress innocent Gambians but the phenomenon was no issue in the small country.
“The aggravated homosexuality was a distraction and it should be taken out of the laws… You pass laws to deal with situations, not an imaginary problem.,” says Mr. Darboe.
“Homosexuality was perhaps something Jammeh imagined in order to bamboozle the clerics that were surrounding him… He used gay as a propaganda tool in order for him to continue to repress people.”
Darboe’s UDP party, the country’s largest political group gained the majority in the country’s lawmaking body and says his United Democratic Party will support the repealing of the law, which punished homosexuals in the country up to life in prison.
Dozens of men and women were arrested between 2012 and 2015 on allegations of being gays, including a young 15-year-old boy. They were tortured and paraded on national television but later released as international pressure was mounted on Jammeh
Gambian political leaders, except Omar Jallow who advocated for the legalization of the act, have all denied the existence of homosexuality in the country, claiming it is not “an issue.”
During his meeting with EU Commissioner Neven Memica in February, President Adama Barrow has defensively said “gay is not an issue in Gambia” when asked what his government intends to do with their rights.
Gambia is a majority Muslim country with a good Christian population where homosexuality is considered an “ungodly act,” thus all political leaders, even those with liberal views tries avoiding it.
“This does not mean the country is any safer for gays and those that support them. There will be no action taken against those that hurt them. We have seen it right after their election victory and gays have their rights and must be protected,” said Mustapha Alieu Mboob, a Gambian activist in Maryland.
Darboe, like all others, won’t recognize it as a problem let alone to give it attention.
The “aggravated homosexuality” carries punishments of up to life in prison and among those who could be charged with it 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.
Rights activists say that makes Gambia’s criminalization of homosexual activity even more likely to be used broadly and arbitrarily.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Editing by Sam Phatey)