As the upper house of Parliament in Gabon votes to decriminalise homosexuality, Catholic leaders in the country have warned that the move will endanger children with “deviant behaviour.”
On Monday, the Senate followed in the footsteps of MPs in the National Assembly who last week agreed to repeal a year-old provision that banned consensual “sexual relations between people of the same sex.”
The repeal – which was passed with 59 votes for, 17 against and four abstentions in the Senate – is expected to be signed by the country’s President, Ali Bongo. His wife earlier tweeted her support for the bill and for “loving, freely, without being condemned.”
The move, however, has indeed been condemned by religious figures and conservatives. In particular, Gabon’s Catholic Church leadership lashed out at the progressive vote for equality.
In a statement signed by Archbishop Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, the Central African nation’s Catholic Bishops said that it “could not only lead fragile consciences to assume deviant behaviour; it could also expose homosexuals to hostile reactions and discrimination.”
They asserted that “in our country, the decriminalisation of homosexuality is a danger for our children and for homosexuals themselves.”
The clerics added: “In the name of the wisdom of our ancestors, contained in our various cultures, which celebrate life, Love, and Family, we say NO to the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”
The shameful comments perpetuate false and dangerous narratives that LGBTQ people are deviants who target young individuals and are anti-family and un-African.
Meanwhile, Pan-Africa ILGA has welcomed the decision by lawmakers to respect the equal human rights of LGBTQ people, stating that “The repeal of this law is a positive move for the region and should serve as an example for African Sates that continue to criminalise same-sex sexual activities.”
Executive Director Nate Brown sees the move as a hopeful one for Africa as a whole. “Across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction,” Brown said.
Until recently, there had been no criminalisation of same-sex relationships in Gabon. That changed in July 2019, when the anti-gay provision was adopted. It punishes homosexuality with up to six months in prison and a fine of 5 million CFA francs (US$8,535).