By Bakary Ceesay
Amidst descrimination and serious threats against gays and lesbians, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the government of the Gambia “to deepen efforts to combat acts of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and create a culture of tolerance for diversity and differences”.
It strongly recommended to the government to take legal and other measures to protect the human rights and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the country.
In its 2019 report expected to be to be submitted to the National Assembly today and seen by journalists , NHRC said: “As the primary duty bearer for the respect and protection of the human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, tribe, sex, religious or other status, the state has the obligation to fight impunity, discrimination, violence, bullying and human rights violation perpetrated against every person living in The Gambia, including the LGBT community. It also should create the environment for everyone to enjoy injury or abuse by other sections of the society,”.
It said the LGBT community in The Gambia “endured harsh treatment, arrest, violence and intimidations”during the Jammeh years and that “since the defeat of dictatorship in 2016, the climate of fear and impunity under which the LGBT community used to live has receded to the rear.”
It further reported that “while there is still perceptible public animosity against LGBTs, the state has so far respected the rights of this specific minority group [and] since 2017, has not been subjected to state sponsored or approved intimidation or arrest”.
A statement by the European Union office in The Gambia suggesting its commitment to protect gay rights in The Gambia last month sparked controversy and even condemnations from Gambians, among them political leaders.
It is an offence in The Gambia to commit “unnatural offences” or homosexual acts. Section 144 (1) of the Criminal Code stipulates a punishment of 14 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of sodomy in The Gambia.
The “Criminal Code (Amendment Act) 2014” was passed in the National Assembly on 9th October 2014, stipulating a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality” and other penalties for certain homosexual acts.
The Draft Constitution also stipulates that married should be between man and women that means LGBT rights is not protected in the upcoming Constitution.