Africa

Gambian leader shuns his predecessor’s anti-gay stance

The Gambia’s new leader has downplayed concerns about the so-called “threat” of homosexuality — a stark contrast to his outrageously homophobic predecessor.

Gambian President Adama Barrow. (Photo courtesy of Mamba Online)

Gambian President Adama Barrow. (Photo courtesy of Mamba Online)

During a meeting with European Union delegates on Thursday, new Gambian President Adama Barrow said that “homosexuality is not an issue” in the country, which he said faces “economic and other social issues that are more of a priority.”

The country’s laws against same-sex sexual activity are still in place. Gambia’s Criminal Code states that a “person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is punishable by a 14-year prison term, while “aggravated homosexuality” is supposed to be punished with imprisonment for life. Among those who can be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” are “serial offenders” and people living with HIV who are deemed to be gay or lesbian.

Former president Yahya Jammeh lost the Dec. 1 presidential election to Barrow by 45.5 percent to 36.7 percent. He agreed to accept the results of the election and step down last month under military and diplomatic pressure from neighboring countries.

Yahya Jammeh, defeated Gambian leader. (Photo courtesy of iTele)

Yahya Jammeh, defeated Gambian leader. (Photo courtesy of iTele)

During his years in power from 1994 to last month, Jammeh targeted gays for torture, along with political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders  and religious leaders. In 2014, his regime arrested 16 allegedly gay men in an anti-homosexuality crackdown.

Jammeh called homosexuals “vermin” and said the government would exterminate them like malaria-carrying mosquitoes. He threatened to slit gay men’s throats and declared that the letters LGBT must stand for “leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis.”

The EU withheld more than 33 million euros in aid to The Gambia over the deteriorating human rights conditions and concerns about treatment of the LGBT community.

This article includes information from MambaOnline and ILGA’s LGBulleTIn news roundup.

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