PARLIAMENTARIANS in the African nation of Gambia reportedly approved tough anti-gay legislation and the country itself has not even been notified of it.
The news emerged only last week when The Associated Press obtained a copy of the legislation, which President Yahya Jammeh reportedly ratified on October 9.
The new crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, a phrase adopted from Uganda’s now-overturned anti-gay legislation, now carries a sentence of life in prison.
Before the the legislation’s October enactment, anti-gay laws held a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
It targets people with HIV and “serial offenders”, or people already known to the country’s security forces.
The revelation follows the activity surrounding Gambia’s state-sanctioned crackdown on LGBTI people this month.
Amnesty International has reported that Gambia’s Presidential Guards and its National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have arrested at least four men, including a 17-year-old-boy, and nine women since November 7.
Several people have fled the country after being tipped about the government’s raids.
Amnesty also reported that detainees were kept in a secret location and tortured, threatened with rape, and coerced into admitting their guilt.
“They were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess their so-called ’crimes’ and to reveal information about other individuals perceived to be gay or lesbian,” Amnesty stated.
The organisation’s deputy director for West and Central Africa Steve Cockburn said: “The new law treats consensual, private sexual activity between adults of the same sex – which should not be a crime – in the same way as rape and incest.”
The bill’s August introduction was condemned by human rights organisations.
“President Jammeh’s inflammatory public statements against LGBTI people have been put into practice through this odious law and the witch hunt that followed its secretive passage,” Human Rights Watch’s Africa researcher Monica Tabengwa said.
Jammeh is known for being violently homophobic, and said on state television in February: “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively”.