Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba
Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba
2 min read

West African country of Gabon has become the 70th nation in the world to outlaw homosexuality, quietly passing an amendment to its penal code earlier in the year.

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the nation banned consensual “sexual relations between people of the same sex” earlier this year, although the news has only now started to make international headlines.

Under the law, which is a disappointing step backwards for African LGBTQ rights, homosexuality can now be punished with up to six months in prison and a fine of 5 million CFA francs (US$8,521).

The news has been confirmed by global LGBTQ rights organisation Ilga in the latest update to its State-Sponsored Homophobia report. It states: “On July 5, 2019, Gabon adopted a new Penal Code that criminalises consensual same-sex sexual relations.”

The organisation noted that earlier this year, “African activists Julie Makuala Di Baku and Jean Paul Enama had reported that arrests for ‘moral attacks’ based only on the form of dressing ‘translating sexual orientation’ were taking place in Gabon, even before this law was enacted, so now there is even less hope for improvement in the short run.”

The move is relatively unusual, as most African countries in which homosexuality is criminalised inherited those laws from their former colonial rulers.

Activist Davis Mac-Iyalla from the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa told the news agency that he is aware of two Gabonese men who have been arrested under the new law. They were reportedly released after bribing the police.

“It has further sent the LGBT community underground and has created harassment. The corrupt police now use that, arrest people and then people have to bribe their way out,” said Mac-Iyalla.

Thirty-three countries in Africa currently criminalise consensual same-sex relations in some form.

At least 35 countries have prosecuted LGBT+ people for same-sex intimacy in the last two years, according to ILGA World research – 28 in 2018 and 17 so far in 2019.

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