The central African nation of Gabon has adopted a law against same-sex sexual relations, running counter to the general trend of countries overturning such repressive laws in recent years. With the addition of Gabon, the tally of nations with anti-homosexuality laws rose to 73.
The new law in Gabon was adopted in July, but it apparently was not widely publicized until October.
The new law provides for a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to 5 million CFA francs (about U.S. $8,500 or 7,600 euros).
As of last spring, when the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) published an updated report on “State-Sponsored Homophobia,” the number of countries with anti-gay laws was down 24 percent from ILGA’s list of 92 countries in 2006. That was the year when the global rights group began documenting the laws that are used to persecute LGBT people.
The Gabon Review reported that the issue of homosexuality “has been fueling conversations for some years now,” extending back to 2013, when two men announced their marriage. The couple was arrested and released, and public prosecutor Sidonie Flore Ouwé stated that “there was no marriage in the sense of law and custom”.
The relationship between the two men had gone on for years before they decided to celebrate their union without a civil registrar. At the time, the prosecutor pointed out that they were adults and that “there is no provision in the Gabonese Penal Code punishing adults for acts against nature.”
In its latest report on anti-gay laws worldwide, ILGA said the news from Gabon is “most worrying.”
ILGA added, “In the aftermath of Gabon’s enactment of its new Penal Code, it was reported that neighbouring Equatorial Guinea was in the process of preparing a draft bill that would also criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity.”
In recent years, several countries have overturned their anti-gay laws — in Trinidad, the High Court overturned the country’s anti-sodomy law in 2018; in India, the Supreme Court overturned the nation’s 158-year-old prohibition of sex “against the order of nature,” also in 2018; Angola adopted a new Penal Code without an anti-gay provision in January 2019; and Botswana’s High Court overturned its anti-gay law in June 2019.
In the opposite direction, Chad adopted a new anti-gay law in 2017 and Kenya’s High Court refused to overturn the anti-gay laws there in May 2019.