LGBT rights in the Gambia

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StatusIllegal since 1888 (as Gambia Colony and Protectorate)[1]
PenaltyUp to life imprisonment [2]
Gender identityNo
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Gambia face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the Gambia.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

The Gambia Criminal Code, as amended by the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2005, provides as follows:[3][4][5]

Section 144. Unnatural offenses.

(1) Any person who –
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature;
is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term of 14 years.

(2) In this section - "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" includes -
(a) carnal knowledge of the person through the anus or the mouth of the person;
(b) inserting any object or thing into the vulva or the anus of the person for the purpose of simulating sex; and
(c) committing any other homosexual act with the person.

Section 145 provides that any person who attempts to commit any of the offenses specified in Section 144 is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for a term of seven years.

Section 147 states that a male person who, whether in public or private, commits an "act of gross indecency" with another male person or procures another male person to commit an act of this kind with him, or attempts to procure another male person to commit such an act with himself or another male person, is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for a term of five years. The statute also states that a female person who, whether in public or private, commits an "act of gross indecency" with another female person or procures another female person to commit an act of this kind with her, or attempts to procure another female person to commit such an act with herself or another female person, is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for a term of five years. The term "act of gross indecency" includes any homosexual act.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex couples have no legal recognition.

Adoption of children[edit]

The Gambia prohibits LGBT persons from adopting children.[6]

Discrimination protections[edit]

There is no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Living conditions[edit]

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said in May 2008 that laws "stricter than those in Iran" against homosexuals would soon be introduced and vowed to "cut off the head" of any homosexual caught in the country.[7] On 15 May 2008, Jammeh gave homosexuals 24 hours to leave the country. He also commanded "all those who harbour such individuals to kick them out of their compounds, noting that a mass patrol will be conducted on the instructions of the [Inspector General of Police] ... and the director of the Gambia Immigration Department to weed bad elements in society". He said, "Any hotel, lodge[,] or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful. We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country".[8][9][10]

President Jammeh said in a speech before newly promoted army chiefs on 7 December 2009, "We will not encourage lesbianism and homosexuality in the military. It is a taboo in our armed forces. I will sack any soldier suspected of being a gay or lesbian in the Gambia. We need no gays in our armed forces." Jammeh advised the army chiefs to monitor the activities of their men and deal with soldiers bent on practicing lesbianism in the military.[11]

In a cable to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Barry L. Wells, the U.S. ambassador to the Gambia, he recounted his meeting with Jammeh on 26 February 2010.

[The ambassador] ... suggested to President Jammeh that perception of him by outside observers could be attributed in large part to some of his more incendiary comments such as those related to ... "cutting off homosexual's [sic] heads". The President responded, "Yes I did make those comments but did I actually cut off anyone's head? Have I ever arrested anyone for being gay? No, but Senegal has arrested and imprisoned someone for being gay and they receive the [Millennium Challenge Corporation].... There are gays here in the Gambia, I know that. But they live in secret and that is fine with me, as long as they go about their business in private we don't mind. But if you are talking about marrying in this country, that will never happen. We will never accept gays."[12]

Two Spanish men alleged to be gay, Pere Joan, 56 and Juan Monpserrat Rusa, 54, were arrested by Gambian police and detained at Kotu police station in June 2008. "According to ... sources, the Spanish contacted two taxi drivers and asked to be taken to where they can meet with homosexuals, saying they were willing to pay any amount, which the drivers agreed. The sources further said the drivers asked the Spanish to wait, that they were going to search for homosexuals. When they left, the men changed their minds and decided to contact the police at the Kotu Police Station, who arrested the Spanish."[13] The men were subsequently released, reportedly after the Spanish government intervened.[14]

On 23 December 2008, Frank Boers, a 79-year-old man from the Netherlands, was arrested at Banjul International Airport when officials found him in possession of pornography, including nude pictures of himself and some Gambian men. A Banjul court found Boers guilty of indecency with those men and sentenced him to pay 100,000 Gambian dalasis (£2,500) in lieu of a two year prison sentence.[14] After the sentencing, Boers told the prosecutor that he would prefer prison to the fine because he had no means to pay the fine.[15]

On 10 April 2012, a court remanded 18 alleged homosexuals (16 from Senegal, 1 from the Gambia, and 1 from Nigeria) who were arrested on 9 April at a bar in the Tourism Development Area. They were "charged with indecent practice among themselves at a public place".[16] According to police testimony in court in July 2012, the arrests were made because men were wearing women's clothes, carrying handbags, and "walking like ladies".[17] On 1 August 2012, the prosecutor dropped all charges in the case.[18]

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report found that "there was strong societal discrimination against LGBT individuals, some of whom were shunned", although "there were no reported incidents of physical violence against LGBT individuals during the year". The report also found that there were no LGBT organizations in the country.[19]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: Up to life imprisonment)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Where is it illegal to be gay?". 10 February 2014 – via
  2. ^ Press, Associated (8 September 2014). "The Gambia passes bill imposing life sentences for some homosexual acts" – via
  3. ^ ""Criminal law provisions on homosexuality and their application around the world", Printed Paper 16/3597, German Bundestag, 16th Electoral Term, 28 November 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 January 2013.
  4. ^ "State Sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws criminalising same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, edited by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, May 2012, pages 28-29" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2012.
  5. ^ Criminal Code (Amendments) Act, 2005, Supplement "C" to The Gambia Gazette No. 13 of 2 August 2005
  6. ^ Intercountry Adoption: The Gambia, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, November 2009 Archived 21 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ ""President plans to kill off every single homosexual", Afrik-News, 19 May 2008". Archived from the original on 4 May 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
  8. ^ "No room for gays in the Gambia", Daily Observer, reported by Alhagie Jobe, 19 May 2008 Archived 19 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ ""Dialogue with the People Tour", Office of the Gambian President: State House Online, 15 May 2008". Archived from the original on 14 December 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  10. ^ "President Jammeh Gives Ultimatum for Homosexuals to Leave", The Point, reported by Abba Gibba, 19 May 2008
  11. ^ "Jammeh Threatens To Sack Gay And Lesbian Soldiers In Gambia", Freedom Press, reported by M. Faye, and Ebrima Jallow, 7 December 2009 Archived 23 January 2013 at
  12. ^ "Ambassador Meets with President Jammeh" – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
  13. ^ "Two Spanish caught in the Gambia after President called for the death of homosexuals", Afrik-News, 2 June 2008
  14. ^ a b Tony Grew (6 January 2009). "Dutchman fined for gay "indecency" in Gambia".
  15. ^ "Dutch home sexual (sic) fined D100,000, says he has no means to pay", Daily Observer, reported by Sanna Jawara, 5 January 2009 Archived 26 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Arrested Gambian 'Gays' Remanded", JollofNews, 11 April 2012 Archived 25 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Police testify against gay men arrested in Gambia", GayStarNews, reported by Matthew Jenkin, 19 July 2012
  18. ^ "Gambian Court Frees Alleged Homosexuals", JollofNews, reported by Abdoulie John, 1 August 2012[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: The Gambia, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, page 24" (PDF).