Relief as Gambia’s new president says homosexuality “not an issue”


President Adama Barrow

In the wake of former President Jammeh’s virulently homophobic rule, Gambia’s new leader appears far less concerned about the so-called “threat” of homosexuality.

This week, President Adama Barrow spoke for the first time on the issue of LGBT rights. According to The Point, he said that that homosexuality is not an issue in Gambia.

He is also reported to have pointed out that the country has far more pressing issues to focus on, such as the economy.

Barrow was voted into office late last year, unseating Jammeh, who only recently gave up power and went into exile after protracted negotiations and the threat of military action by neighbouring countries.

Jammeh’s fall was welcomed by LGBT Gambians. A despot for more than two decades, he not only advocated violence against LGBT people but also promoted the view that homosexuality is being pushed onto Africa by the West.

He threatened to execute gay people by having their heads cut off and is believed to have supported the arrest, detention and torture of a number of people on suspicion of homosexuality by the country’s National Intelligence Agency.

While Barrow has so-far espoused a far more democratic and human rights based approach than his predecessor, his views on homosexuality have never been publicly expressed, until now.

His reported comments do not quite suggest that he is planning to decriminalise homosexuality, but they do indicate that under his rule the country may ease off on the active state persecution of LGBT people.

Homosexuality is illegal in The Gambia under British colonial era laws and those found guilty of “unnatural offences” face up to 14 years in prison. In October 2014, Jammeh signed a law creating the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, which carries punishment of up to life in prison.

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