The Gambia is largely Muslim-dominated, with about 95 per cent of the population being Muslims. It is also highly traditional. Thus, Islam significantly influences people’s ways of lives. In the recent years, there has been much discussion, in the media and political fora, about homosexuality and homosexual rights in The Gambia. The attitude of the ordinary Gambian towards homosexuals is outright hostile, fanned by the extreme condemnation from both political and religious leaders. People are made to believe that homosexuals are cursed and support for homosexual rights would spell doom for Islam and Gambian culture, whatever that means. Due to this charged hostility towards homosexuals, there are only few lone voices that dare to challenge current beliefs about and hostility towards homosexuality or campaign to hold the state accountable for the respect, protection and fulfillment of the sexuality rights. The criminalisation of homosexuality provides the state with an opportunity to violate the rights of homosexual with impunity and absolute disregard for the rule of law.
The arch opponent of homosexuals and their rights is the president of The Gambia. During the recent celebration s to mark The Gambia’s independence celebration, on 18 February 2014, President Yahya Jammeh stated that his government “will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes; if not more aggressively”. He further noted that The Gambia would not spare any homosexual, and that no diplomatic immunity would be respected for any diplomat found guilty or accused of being a homosexual. The next day, United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the President Jammeh’s comments, calling on the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature are unacceptable and have no place in the public dialogue.
A same-sex union is known to be a sexual relationship between people of the same sex; namely, between two or more males or two or more females. This relationship often described as unnatural and amongst the Christian and Islamic faiths in Nigeria is general not accepted. Without any intentions of making an ideological or philosophical argument on the issue of the morality of this kind of relationship, I would like to explore the human rights implications of passing of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill in Nigeria on 31 May 2013.
The new Bill refutes any benefits that may accrue to a marriage and restates that such a marriage will not be recognised, even when contracted outside Nigeria. It further outlaws the gathering of people of the same-sex and provides in very wide terms “directly or indirectly” liability for any person or group that is involved in a same sex relationship. It further stipulates a minimum period of 10 years imprisonment for direct or indirect involvement in issues concerning the rights of people of the same-sex. In enacting the Bill, the House of Assembly of Nigeria propose a $40million internet monitoring project to clamp down on people involved in same-sex unions.
Author: Joelle Dountio
PhD candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
Religion, traditional cultural beliefs and law are all used by humans to fuel hatred, stigma, and discrimination towards homosexuals. The rights to equality, non-discrimination and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as upheld by the International Bill of Rights and other human rights instruments are, for the most part, all recognised in the constitutions and other national laws of most African countries. However, 36 of the 54 African countries have punitive laws on homosexuality. Meanwhile, homosexuality is a sexual orientation and a prohibited ground for discrimination under international human rights law (Toonen v. Australia).
Historically, religion has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities committed against human beings. Some of these atrocities include: slavery, the holocaust, apartheid, racism and terrorism. Today, the Bible is used to justify homophobia based on the famous kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah. The question I ask is, does the Bible really mean that we should kill these people as is happening today? And even if it does mean this, what about other practices for which the Bible says people should be killed? This Bible says married women who have sexual relations outside their marriage should be killed. The Bible says we should sell all we have and give the money to the poor. The Bible says we should not make carved images of anything in heaven. Why do Christians not apply these? Apparently man chooses to follow only those sections of the Bible which suit him and enable him to meet his selfish goal irrespective of the consequences to others. Is this not hypocrisy?