This article was published on July 15th, 2020
In a stunning win for the LGBTQ+ movement, the Senate of Gabon voted 59 to 17 in favor of decriminalizing same-sex relations. On June 23rd, the lower house of Parliament voted for decriminalization and this landmark action reverses a previous ban that had been met with a huge backlash and cloud of controversy surrounding it. The ruling will soon be ratified by President Ali Bongo, with his wife throwing her support behind the bill, commenting citing the ability to love freely without condemnation a basic human right.
Despite such support, many religious leaders supported the ban, with hate speech within the nation rising, which resulted in LGBT+ activists and allies having little to no choice but to hide for fear for their lives and the safety of their families. Jessica Stern, Executive Director of Outright Action International, commented:
“We commend both Houses of Parliament of Gabon on repealing a ban on same-sex relations. It is shocking that over a third of the world’s countries continue to criminalize same-sex love, in stark contrast to basic human dignity and international human rights standards. The decision in Gabon decreases the total number of countries criminalizing same-sex relations by one. This is not only an affirmation of the right of LGBTIQ people in Gabon to love whom they choose, but also an inspiration to activists in countries in which these bans still exist or are being considered. We hope to see authorities in Gabon take steps to reduce hate speech and promote acceptance of its LGBTIQ citizens.”
Around the world, there are currently 67 countries that criminalize same-sex relations, with Indonesia, Egypt, and Equatorial Guinea considering new bans. Additionally, territorial bans exist in several locations. Kenya’s High Court decided in May 2019 to maintain a ban on same-sex relations that dates back to the country’s colonial times. In Botswana in June 2019, the High Court overturned a colonial-era ban, but the ruling is currently under appeal. In Singapore in March 2020, challenges to the country’s ban on same-sex relations was dismissed.
Human Dignity Trust, a rights group based in the United Kingdom, praised Gabon’s progressive steps, with their chief legal counsel, Victoria Vasey, releasing a statement:
“Gabon now joins African states such as Seychelles, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana who have chosen to rid their lawbooks of archaic provisions which enable discrimination, violence and harassment against LGBT people.”
As other countries look to overturn their antiquated laws regarding the LGBTQ+ community, HomoCulture will keep readers up to date on the latest news.