By Bakary Ceesay
The Gambia Goverment has revealed that it has no plans to legalise same-sex marriage or or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality.
Homosexuals in Gambia faced up to 14 years in prison until 2014, when ex president Yahya Jammeh signed a new law extending the term to life in jail.
An amendment to the country’s criminal code introduced the new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for, among other categories, “repeat offenders” and suspected gays and lesbians living with HIV.
However, some Gambian gay rights actvists organisations like Save Life Gambia has been advocating for the review of this laws since the advent of the new government by petitioning the Constitution Review commission to include same-sex marriage in The Gambia Constitution but failed. They later pursued the matter to the National Human Rights Commission who later makes recommendations to the National Assembly and government to critically consider the right of gays and lesbians in Gambia.
The National Human Rights Commission’s report earlier this month also added greater steam to the debate as the government came under criticism for staying silent. There have been reports the government is mulling unbanning homosexuality.
Some accused the European Union of sparking the debate following a social media post in May.
Government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh said in a statement on Tuesday the Gambia government “continues to be guided by the values and norms of its people, existing laws and has no plans to either decriminalize or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality”.
He said: “In the wake of the simmering controversy surrounding gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) in The Gambia, The Government of President Adama Barrow wants to make it absolutely clear that neither President Barrow himself nor any member of his government, its envoy, agent or representative has ever signed, consented to, participated in or even pretended to support any deal, package, programme or agenda for the promotion of LGBT rights as is being falsely reported on news and various social media platforms. In fact, at no time had The Gambia Government ever been faced with the option to accept donor funds as bargaining chips or a conditionality for the relaxation of LGBT rights.
“Therefore, it is not only baffling but worrisome to hear some opposition and religious leaders engage in crude speculations or indulge in insinuations and wild innuendoes that cannot be substantiated. Since assuming office in 2017, President Adama Barrow has been working tirelessly to strengthening our democracy, upholding the rule of law and promoting the values of, press freedom, constitutional due process and the independence of the judiciary as evident in the most recent high-profile cases.
“Regrettably, some elements within society have seized this democratic space to sometimes indulge in malicious fabrications against the Government and then peddle these falsehoods on social media to potentially create confusion and distrust among citizens. We therefore urge the Gambian people to remain steadfast against the spread of misleading information and always with respect to Government actions, to verify their accuracy with the relevant authorities.
“Significantly, while the Barrow Government respects and protects the fundamental human rights of all citizens as circumscribed by law and enshrined in our Constitution, it is patently false to suggest that it has been corrupted, compromised or preconditioned to accept European funds to accommodate LGBT rights in our laws. This is false political propaganda orchestrated to score cheap political points.
“Accordingly, The Gambia Government continues to be guided by the values and norms of its people, existing laws and has no plans to either decriminalize or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality.”