(Pic: Daily Observer)
Thousands of Gambians, including the country’s anti-gay President, Yahya Jammeh, have held a mass rally against homosexuality in the capital Banjul on Tuesday.
According to Gambia’s Daily Observer, the marchers denounced “attempts by outside forces – development partners – who advocate for homosexuality and lesbianism; vices forbidden by the laws of The Gambia.”
The protest march, which started at the National Assembly, saw participants holding up placards with statements such as “Homosexuality is Inhuman”, “Even cows don’t do it!” and “Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam”.
Said the newspaper: “It was calculated move by the demonstrators in a way to show to Gambian development partners and the rest of the world that the West African nation is one of God-fearing people who will under no circumstances accept homosexuality, lesbianism and the likes.”
At the conclusion of the protest, a petition was read out to the president by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Saihou Sanyang. He said that Gambia is a “country of religious people who live by the dictate of Allah.”
Sanyang went on to state: “Your Excellency Mr. President, it goes without saying that our intolerance with the unnatural and abominable malpractices of homosexuality and lesbianism on the one hand, and the other, our government’s position are not negotiable.
“It is on the basis of such religious, social, moral and ethical upbringing built on high moral grounds that we stand by our government’s position to zero tolerance to either homosexuality or lesbianism or both. There shall not be any turning point and that the people are ready for eventuals in good defence of the people and country’s independence,” he read out to the crowd.
The rally follows President Jammeh recently approving a new anti-gay law that creates the crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” which carries punishment of up to life in prison. The law has been slammed by international human rights groups, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the US government.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the European Union had withdrawn millions of euros of aid that had been allocated to Gambia because of its poor human rights record.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Gambia under British colonial era laws; those found guilty of “unnatural offences” face up to 14 years in prison.
President Jammeh has previously equated LGBT people to vermin and malaria-causing mosquitoes, said that homosexuality was amongst the biggest threats facing the world, and even threatened to decapitate gays and lesbians.
Late last month, Gambia’s Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa read out a statement on national television insisting that the country will not negotiate on the issue of LGBT equality with the West, claiming that gay people are un-African and satanic.