UK updates travel advice for the Gambia

Tony Grew June 3, 2008
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British tourists in the Gambia are being advised that the government there is “actively enforcing” laws against gay people.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told that their advice was updated today.

Two Spanish men have been taken into custody by police in the Gambia after being accused of trying to solicit sex from male taxi drivers.

The EU nationals were arrested on Friday after complaints from the drivers and remain in prison.

A police spokesman said they were “helping in the investigation.”

Last month the President of Gambia said gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face “serious consequences.”

“Foreign visitors to the Gambia need to carry an ID with them at all times,” the FCO guidance reads.

“Although there are no laws specifically covering homosexuality in the Gambia, the Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has, or attempts to have, “carnal knowledge” of any person “against the order of nature” is guilty of a felony and could face imprisonment.

“The Gambian courts may interpret homosexual acts as falling under this part of the Code.

“The Code also states that gross indecency between men, whether in public or private, is a felony and anyone committing this felony could face imprisonment.

“Any private citizen has the power of arrest for these offences.

“We have received reports that the police are actively enforcing this Code.

“There are no current reports of any attacks on homosexuals. There are no gay clubs in the Gambia.”

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised gay citizens not to disclose their sexual orientation if they visit the Gambia.

The mostly Muslim nation of 1.7 million people punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison.

A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994.

According to the Department for International Development, tourism is the second largest employer and is the main foreign exchange earner in the Gambia.

British companies are heavily promoting the Gambia as a welcoming destination.

The country, notorious for “sun, sea and sex” holidays, with affluent Western women flocking to the beach resorts to have sex with local men, hopes to reposition itself as a family destination.

In 2004 the annual GDP growth rate was 8.3% but poverty remains high with an estimated 59% of the population living on less than one dollar a day.

Some 75-80% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood.

The UK is one of the few bilateral donors to have a country office, and has a development programme allocation of £3 million for 2007-08.

Britain also provides development assistance to The Gambia through contributions to multilateral organisations, such as the European Union, World Bank and United Nations agencies.

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