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At Least 3 Arrested On Suspicion Of Homosexuality In The Gambia

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The West African nation The Gambia has begun rounding up and arresting individuals suspected of being gay, BuzzFeed reports.

Gambian media outlet the Daily Observer reports that at least three individuals have already been arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. You'll recall that The Gambia criminalized "aggravated homosexuality" earlier this year with punishment up to life in prison. The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh has become infamous for his virulently homophobic remarks, calling gays "vermin" than need to be killed like malaria-infected mosquitoes and threatening to kill any LGBT Gambians seeks asylum in the West. 

A member of The Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) spoke with the Daily Observer about the arrests, providing a statement rich in homophobic bile:

“We arrested some and others are beyond the territory, but that would not stop us from operations. During the investigations, suspects confessed that they were truly engaged in the act of homosexuality. 

They further revealed that most them started homosexual act between the ages of nine and ten. The investigation also revealed that the suspects were introduced to the homosexual act by friends, most of whom are non-Gambians. The suspects said they depended on them for financial support. The suspects were engaged in the activities to the point where they became addicted and could no longer stop”.

The intelligence officer, who affirmed that the practice is against the law, added: “The suspects continued on with the activity and along the line they met other people who they associated with to engage in the activity”. 

The officer called on the general public to be vigilant and discourage activities he described as “inhuman, un-Gambian and condemned by all religions”. 

“Landlords, bar, restaurants, and hotels owners, amongst others, should also take responsibility to monitor extra activities that happen in their environment. The act is illegal and we will leave no stone unturned to ensuring that it is not practiced in The Gambia. Whoever is caught will face prosecution,” the officer concluded.

GambiaMeanwhile, BuzzFeed reports that the number of individuals arrested since November on suspicion of homosexuality in The Gambia could be as high as 13. BuzzFeed also reports that The Gambia may be ratcheting up its anti-gay rhetoric in an attempt to woo allies in and aid from the Middle East, with particular attention being paid to Qatar and its leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani:  

Last fall, Jammeh pulled the Gambia out of the Commonwealth of former British colonies. That was just days after declaring at the United Nations in New York, “Those who promote homosexuality want to put an end to human existence. It is becoming an epidemic and we Muslims and Africans will fight to end this behavior…. Homosexuality in all its forms and manifestations which, though very evil, antihuman as well as anti-Allah, is being promoted as a human right by some powers.”

In September, just after a months-long confrontation between Uganda and donor nations over a sweeping anti-LGBT law enacted in February was brought to an end when Uganda’s Constitutional Court nullified it on procedural grounds, Jammeh’s government passed a law imposing a lifetime prison sentence for “aggravated homosexuality” that appeared to be closely modeled on some of the Ugandan law’s most controversial provisions.

Fatou Camara, who briefly served as Jammeh’s communications director and hosted a Gambian television program before she was charged with sedition and fled to the United States, noted that the current wave of arrests took place just before Jammeh made a state visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. While there, he signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar’s leader, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Camara said that she spoke with sources who accompanied Jammeh on the visit, and that they told her he was using this issue to make the case for Qatari support. “This is one point he used to talk to the emir: ‘I cannot get along with the West because they want [me] to promote homosexuality,’” she said.


Thousands Take Part In Gambian Anti-Gay March - VIDEO

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Thousands of people took part in an anti-gay protest in The Gambia last Tuesday.

GambiaDemonstrators were joined by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who earlier this year signed a new law imposing life imprisonment for homosexual acts. Last month, the Gambian government said it would never allow the acceptance of gay rights to be a precondition for accepting Western aid.

According to the report on AllAfrica, protesters denounced “attempts by outside forces - development partners - who advocate for homosexuality and lesbianism; vices forbidden by the laws of The Gambia.”

Those demonstrating are said to have carried placards with messages including "Homosexuality is Inhuman", "Even cows don't do it!" and "Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam".

The cow argument is not new: Uganda's First Lady Janet Museveni said earlier this year that humans shouldn't be homosexual because cows arent. .  Of course, cows can be gay as can many other animals.

A petition read by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government Saihou Sanyang read in part:

"Your Excellency Mr. President, it goes without saying that our intolerance with the unnatural and abominable malpractices of homosexuality and lesbianism on the one hand, and the other, our government's position are not negotiable.

It is on the basis of such religious, social, moral and ethical upbringing built on high moral grounds that we stand by our government's position to zero tolerance to either homosexuality or lesbianism or both. There shall not be any turning point and that the people are ready for eventuals in good defence of the people and country's independence".

One protester brought up the animal issue again, saying "The Gambia is a decent country of decent people. Man to man marriage or woman to woman marriage will not be accepted because it is not acceptable by our tradition and cultures. Even animals know that it is not decent".

Watch The Young Turks discuss Jammeh's threat to catch and kill Gambians seeking asylum from persecution, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Thousands Take Part In Gambian Anti-Gay March - VIDEO" »


Gambian Activists Scold U.S. For Ignoring Atrocities Unrelated To LGBT Rights

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Representatives of the Civil Society Associations Gambia and other advocates for Gambian human rights gathered in Washington, D.C. last week to implore the U.S. government to redouble its supposed commitment to supporting the West African nation. In recent months there’s been a spike of Western attention that many of the activists attributed to the rise of visibly anti-LGBT sentiment within Gambia.

Officially the United States State Department has publicly condemned Gambian president Yahya Jammeh for passing a law that criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality.” The Gambian government, however, has expressed its intentions to continue its crusade against queer individuals regardless of aid cuts or retaliation from the West.

Banka Manneh of the Civil Society Associations Gambia spoke at a panel held at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights to voice his concerns about the U.S.’s inconsistent attention. While the media attention towards Jammeh’s discriminatory laws has been well intentioned, many feel that it belies the seeming blind eye that’s been turned to other Gambian atrocities committed against non-LGBT people.

“In all these years of efforts to go to the state department, going to all these different levels in the U.S. government lobbying and lobbying for them to do something about the Gambia, we haven’t been having any traction at all,” said Manneh. “All of sudden they arrest these 15 gays and lesbians, and we’re seeing really what seems to be a firestorm.”

Jammeh’s “aggravated homosexuality” law bears a number of parallels with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, and has similarly captured the attention of the world press for its severity. As horrific as Jammeh’s avowal to hunt down Gambia’s LGBT population may sound, however, they are not uncharacteristic of the dictator’s generally oppressive politics.

“What we are hoping is that this could be a catalyst - maybe this could be a wake up call,” Manneh said. “Maybe [the U.S. has] been asleep all this time. If this serves that purpose, that would be awesome because then it benefits the LGBT community and the regular Gambians.”


Gambian Government Says It Will Continue Persecuting Gays Regardless of Any Western Aid Cuts

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The Gambian government has fired back at Western donor nations following the U.S. State Department's condemnation of the West African nation's new law imprisoning citizens for homosexual acts, the Associated Press reports:

JahumpaThe European Union and the United States recently expressed dismay at the law and discrimination against gay people in the West African country. Both provide aid to impoverished Gambia and have used that position to encourage respect for human rights.

The Gambian government will not allow acceptance of gay people to be a pre-condition for receiving aid "no matter how much aid is involved," Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa said in a nationally televised addressed late Saturday.

"We are no longer going to entertain any dialogue on the issue with the European Union or any other foreign power," he said.

Earlier this month, the AP reported that the new law:

...criminalizes "aggravated homosexuality," which targets "serial offenders" and people living with HIV or AIDS. Suspects can also be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person or is "in authority over" him or her.


State Department Condemns Severe 'Aggravated Homosexuality' Law in Gambia: VIDEO

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The U.S. has condemned the decision of Gambia President Yahya Jammeh to approve a severe new law imposing life imprisonment for homosexual acts, reports ABC.

The law went into effect on October 9th. Homosexual acts had already been punishable with up to 14 years in prison.

The AP reported last week:

“It criminalizes ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which targets 'serial offenders' and people living with HIV or AIDS. Suspects can also be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person or is 'in authority over' him or her."

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c70bfab2970b-300wiThe term “aggravated homosexuality” was borrowed from a Ugandan anti-gay law signed earlier this year that was eventually ruled unconstitutional.  More extreme anti-gay laws are expected to be enacted in Uganda shortly.

In a statement issued on Monday, State Department Director of Press Relations Jeff Rathke said:

"We are dismayed by President Jammeh's decision to sign into law legislation that further restricts the rights of L.G.B.T. individuals and are deeply concerned about the reported arrests and detention of suspected L.G.B.T. individuals in The Gambia.”

Rathke also voiced concerns about reports of recent arrests in Gambia of at least four men, a 17-year-old boy and nine women accused of committing homosexual acts.

Last week, Amnesty International accused Gambian security forces of resorting to beatings and the threat of rape and other abuses if the detainees did not confess.

Gambian officials have declined to comment on the new law or the arrests.

Watch a Young Turks report on Gambia's anti-gay law, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "State Department Condemns Severe 'Aggravated Homosexuality' Law in Gambia: VIDEO" »


Gambian Leader Signs Law Imposing Life Imprisonment for Homosexual Acts Amid New Crackdown

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Gambia's leader Yahya Jammed signed a bill into law that would imprison citizens for homosexual acts, the AP has revealed:

It criminalizes "aggravated homosexuality," which targets "serial offenders" and people living with HIV or AIDS. Suspects can also be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person or is "in authority over" him or her.

People found guilty of aggravated homosexuality can be sentenced to life in prison.

The revelation comes amidst a new crackdown on gays in the country this month.

GambiaAmnesty International reported this week:

Since 7 November, state forces have launched a homosexuality investigation, leading to at least eight arrests.

Four men plus one 17-year-old boy were arrested by the National Intelligence Agency and Presidential Guards in Banjul, the capital city, under investigation for crimes of homosexuality. They are being held in a secret location without access to a lawyer, and are at high risk of being tortured. By holding the men in detention for more than three days without charging or releasing them, state forces are breaking the law according to Gambia's constitution.

Three women were also arrested in Banjul on 13 November. They said they were beaten in detention and threatened with rape by security forces. The women have now been released, but the police kept their identity cards and banned them from travelling.

All detainees, male and female, were told that if they did not 'confess' to the charges of homosexuality, a device would forced into their anus or vagina to 'test' their sexual orientation.

State forces are reportedly collecting a list of names for future arrest. Other men and women managed to escape the forces' interrogation as friends and relatives gave them advance warning that security forces would be targeting them.

Buzzfeed adds:

“They are making a list,” said Amnesty International’s François Patuel. “This is a very well organized operation.”

Fatou Camara said she had spoken to sources with the intelligence service that said 200 people alleged to be LGBT had been identified, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Theresa said she and her best friend, who asked to be identified only as Youngesp, fled to the Senegalese capital Dakar around three weeks ago. A friend who works on the police force tipped them off, telling them, “you guys have to leave the country because they are coming to arrest you.” They left at 4:00 AM the next morning.


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