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The central African country of Gabon just criminalised gay sex

Lily Wakefield December 13, 2019
Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon. (John Berry/WireImage)

An official has confirmed that the African country of Gabon has criminalised gay sex, making it the 70th country in the world where same-sex relations are illegal.

Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is on the west coast of central Africa.

A government official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Openly that the change was made to the law in July but was not widely reported.

Now, the penalty for having sex with someone of the same gender will be up to six months in prison as well as a fine of 5 million CFA francs (£6,393).

According to travel advice from the UK government, Gabon has “no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation” and as it remains a very conservative society “discrimination can be a problem for those open about their sexual identity”.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, an LGBT+ rights activist in West Africa, told Openly that the new law “has further sent the LGBT community underground and has created harassment”.

“The corrupt police now use that, arrest people and then people have to bribe their way out,” Mac-Iyalla added, although these reports are unconfirmed.

Gay sex is illegal in 33 out of 54 African countries, and many of the laws are remnants of European colonialism. Six have legalised it since 2012.

The global number of countries that criminalise gay sex dropped to 69 when it was legalised by Botswana in June this year, the lowest since records began. The High Court of Kenya also considered decriminalising gay sex this year, but ruled not to in March.

Now that Gabon has changed the law the number has increased to 70 again.

Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal told Openly: “It’s unfortunate that a lot of African countries have claimed and owned those homophobic, colonial values, but others haven’t.

“In general, across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction… I’m guessing you’ll see a lot of change in the next 10 years or so.”

More: Africa, criminalisation, gabon, gay sex, Homophobia

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