September 8, 2014 – Reported by ABC News – Gambia’s National Assembly has passed a bill imposing life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, officials said Monday, potentially worsening the climate for sexual minorities in a country with one of Africa’s most vocal anti-gay leaders.
The bill amending the criminal code was passed last month and brings life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality,” minority leader Samba Jallow told The Associated Press. That is a charge leveled at repeat offenders and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Jallow said that while his National Reconciliation Party did not condone homosexuality, he voted against the bill along with one other lawmaker. “In our view, (homosexuals) did not commit a crime worthy of life imprisonment or any treasonable offense,” he said.
Homosexual acts were already punishable by up to 14 years in prison under a Gambian law that was amended in 2005 to apply to women in addition to men.
The bill now awaits approval by President Yahya Jammeh, an autocratic ruler who in 2008 instructed gays and lesbians to leave the country or risk having their heads cut off.
Speaking on state television in February, Jammeh said, “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup and is famous for speeches condemning Western powers, has not addressed the new bill publicly.
National Assembly Speaker Abdoulie Bojang confirmed the new bill was passed last month but would not provide further details.
A draft seen by The Associated Press contains language identical to a controversial anti-gay bill signed into law in Uganda earlier this year…