25 November 2014

Aggravated Homophobia

Even by the standards of a region not known for its hospitability to LGBT people, Gambia stands out for its official homophobia.

Last month, the West African nation's president approved a law mandating life imprisonment for some homosexual acts. 

The US State Department, among other organizations, has condemned President Yahya Jammeh's action. They also "expressed concern" about the arrests of four men, nine women and a 17-year-old boy. According to Amnesty International, Gambian forces beat the suspects and threatened them with rape if they didn't confess. . 

Upon reading that, I couldn't help but to wonder whether male soldiers were threatening the male suspects with rape. Now that's an interesting way to get them to confess to homosexual acts, don't you think?

Before the law was passed, homosexual acts by men or women were punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In a perverse way, Gambia can be said to be a paragon of gender equality in that part of the world: In some neighboring countries, as well as some in other parts of the world, male homosexual acts are punished, but sexual acts between two women are not. ? And, President Jammeh might even claim that his country is protecting the vulnerable. Some of the acts punishable by life imprisonment are classified as "aggravated homosexuality". They include acts of homosexuality with people who are disabled, drugged or under 18. The term also applies to suspects who are parents, guardians or other authority figures over the person with whom he or she engages in same-sex practices.?

I'd love to know whether there is such a provision for people who have sex with members of the opposite gender who are disabled, drugged, under 18 or who are wards of the accused.

The term and definition of "aggravated homosexuality" was adopted from Ugandan law. Is there a "race to the bottom" in the human rights sweepstakes of Africa, or something?

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