As of July 1, the central African nation of Gabon was just one signature away from repealing the anti-homosexuality law it enacted a year ago. [Update: On July 7, President Ali Bongo Ondimba signed the repeal measure into law.]
The Senate in Gabon voted overwhelmingly on Monday, June 29, to repeal the nation’s short-lived law against same-sex intimacy. The vote was 59 votes in favor to 17 against with four abstentions, according to a spokesman for Gabon’s presidency.
The previous week the lower house of parliament had voted for repeal by 48-24, with 25 abstentions.
The repeal effort has the support of Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the wife of Gabon’s president. She wrote on Twitter (in French):
“Parliament is restoring a fundamental human right for its citizens: that of loving, freely, without being condemned. The Republic defends respect for everyone’s privacy and remains One and Indivisible beyond feelings. Yes to dignity, no to hate.”
The repeal will take effect when the legislation is approved by President Ali Bongo, who also favors the repeal.
In recent years, similar anti-homosexuality laws have been repealed in Seychelles, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana, while Chad enacted one.
Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale praised Gabon’s move to repeal the law.
“I have religious convictions. I am tolerant and I respect human life. Just as I am against the death penalty, I am also against the stigmatization of homosexuals. Congratulations to the parliamentarians for having changed mentalities and been able to adapt to time.”
Opponents of repeal included Senator Jean-Christophe Owonu Nguema, who stated:
“My religious convictions, my education and the vision I have for my country do not permit me to accept such an abomination.”
Catholic bishops in Gabon also opposed repeal. Archbishop Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba stated:
“In the name of the wisdom of our ancestors contained in our various cultures that celebrate Life, Love and Family, we say no to the decriminalization of homosexuality.”