Gabon Divided Over Vote To Decriminalise Homosexuality

 

Gabon’s gay community has welcomed the decriminalisation of homosexuality adopted this week, a year after an initial ban on same-sex relations sparked weeks of debate and sharply divided the central African country.

The criminalisation of homosexuality went almost unnoticed in this country of less than two million inhabitants when it was adopted last year.

But the amendment to the legislation adopted by Gabon’s parliament late Monday has underscored divisions with praise from activists contrasting with anger from opponents in the local press, on social media and in the streets.

“It’s good news. We’re finally going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief,” said Parfait Magnaga, the head of Sante + Pro Humanitus, one of the only associations defending the rights of sexual minorities in Gabon.

The amendment removes text, added by the Senate in July 2019, which made same-sex sexual relations a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of five million CFA francs (7,600 euros).

The change will formally become law once the president — whose government pushed for the amendment — ratifies it.

Although the law was never applied, “in the past year, we have been more vulnerable to violence because we no longer had the law on our side,” Magnaga, a psycho-sexologist by profession, told AFP.

In normal times, “it’s already difficult for a homosexual here to go and file a complaint when he’s verbally or physically attacked,” he added.

“Parliament’s vote is a small victory for us, but it is not a question of gloating now. We prefer to remain discreet,” he said.

Magnaga said the gay community above all wants Gabon to turn the page on this “trying” political time.

Homophobic comments

For three weeks, the issue of decriminalising homosexuality caused a stir and drew homophobic comments from all corners of Gabon.

Some press articles went so far as to equate homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality.

Leaders of the Catholic Church and the opposition have condemned homosexuality in public forums, often in violent terms, while messages inciting hate against homosexuals have been rampant on social media.

“In the taxi, in the neighbourhood, on television, at home, homophobic remarks were everywhere,” said Magnaga.

The psychologist recorded a video, which he said was shot this past week in the capital’s biggest market, showing a young man accused of being homosexual being chased by a group, insulted and narrowly escaping an attack thanks to the intervention of another man.

‘Foreign to our morals’
Many opponents of decriminalisation claim that the vote in parliament is far from a true reflection of the opinion of most Gabonese people.

Decriminalisation “does not enjoy a great deal of support”, political opponent Paul-Marie Gondjout wrote in an open letter to the government, deploring “a power that clearly chooses, and against the interests of its people, to serve lobbies and morals that are foreign to our habits and customs”.

Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, the archbishop of Libreville, accused “certain international organisations” of “conditioning their aid on the acceptance of behaviour which is foreign to our morals”.

Homosexuality is widely criminalised in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half of its countries banning or repressing same-sex relations — in a few places, with the threat of the death penalty.

However, Gabon had never banned homosexuality before last year, and its legislation had not even mentioned it.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Gabon, Stephen Jackson, welcomed the vote on Monday, saying it was in line with Gabon’s constitution which “recognises every person’s right to the ‘free development of their personality'”.

The UN representative hailed Gabon as a “proud, independent and sovereign nation”.

 

 

– AFP

Singapore Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Gay Sex Ban

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

A fresh bid to overturn a Singapore law banning gay sex failed Monday as a court dismissed several challenges, a setback for efforts to promote greater LGBT rights in Asia.

Inherited from the British colonial era, the law is rarely enforced but campaigners say it nevertheless jars with the affluent city-state’s increasingly modern and vibrant culture.

Others however argue that Singapore remains at heart conservative and is not ready for change, while officials also believe most would not be in favour of repealing the legislation.

The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three people — a retired doctor, a DJ and an LGBT rights advocate — who lodged court challenges seeking to prove the law is unconstitutional.

But the High Court dismissed all three after hearing them together behind closed doors, ruling the law does not violate articles of the constitution regarding equality and freedom of speech.

The court also found the fact the legislation was not enforced did not “render it redundant”.

“Legislation remains important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs,” according to a summary of the judgement.

M. Ravi, a lawyer for one of the complainants, told reporters outside court he was “very disappointed”.

“It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary. It is so discriminatory this legislation,” he said.

A first challenge to the law was dismissed in 2014. The repeated failure to overturn it contrasts sharply with progress made elsewhere in the region on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

In 2018, India’s Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex by overturning legislation from its own period under British rule — a decision that spurred campaigners in Singapore to renew their efforts.

And in Taiwan, lawmakers took the unprecedented step last year to legalise same-sex marriage, making the island the first place in Asia to do so.

Singapore’s ban, introduced in 1938, carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

AFP

President Buhari Condemns Terrorist Attack In Florida

buhari-sadPresident Muhammadu Buhari has condemned Sunday’s terrorist attack on the Pulse Night Club, Orlando, Florida, describing it as ‘‘criminal’’ and ‘‘cowardly’’. 

In a letter to the Ambassador of the United States in Nigeria, James Entwistle, President Buhari conveyed Nigeria’s heartfelt sympathy to President Barrack Obama and the people of United States of America.

The President also assured the United States of Nigeria’s continued support and cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

‘‘President Buhari extends his most sincere condolences to the families, relatives and friends of the victims.

‘‘The President condemns such criminal, cowardly attack, wherever it might occur, as an attack on all decent, democratic, peaceful people.

“Every terrorist attack only strengthens Nigeria’s resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and other countries in the frontline of the war on terror,’’ the letter, which was signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari read.

President Buhari also called ‘‘on all peace-loving nations to commit themselves whole-heartedly to multilateral cooperation and collaborative actions aimed at eradicating the scourge of international terrorism.’’

Various Americans on Monday made statements in connection to the killings that took place in Orlando, central Florida in the United States.

A rampage had occurred on Sunday at a gay nightclub, with at least 50 people killed and 53 more wounded.

In his White House briefing, President Barack Obama said Americans were bonded in grief, outrage and “resolve to defend our people”, after “an act of terror and an act of hate”.Orlando Shooting

He described the incident as the ‘worst mass shooting in U.S. history’ and ordered that the American flags be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the attack.

Obama, Biden Others React To Orlando Killings

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, OrlandoVarious Americans on Monday made statements in connection to the killings that took place in Orlando, central Florida in the United States.

A rampage had occurred on Sunday at a gay nightclub, with at least 50 people killed and 53 more wounded.

In his White House briefing, President Barack Obama said Americans were bonded in grief, outrage and “resolve to defend our people”, after “an act of terror and an act of hate”.Orlando Shooting

He described the incident as the ‘worst mass shooting in U.S. history’ and ordered that the American flags be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the attack.

In a statement by his spokesman, Vice President Joe Biden “offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims”.

“Grudge In His Heart”

US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, on her part said the attack was a tragedy that required a serious response.

Also reacting to the shooting was the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus who issued a statement saying they were “horrified by the tragic shooting”.

Seddique Mateen, the father of the attacker, Omar Mateen, said he did not know that his son had a “grudge in his heart”.

Omar was shot dead by the police.

Mr Mateen said he did not understand why his son carried out the shooting at the Pulse nightclub.

He had earlier said his son was angered after seeing two men kissing in Miami.

According to the BBC, in a statement posted online and addressed to people in his native Afghanistan, Seddique Mateen said his son was “a very good boy”, who had a wife and a child.

“I don’t know what caused it,” he said. “I never figured out that he had a grudge in his heart….I am grief-stricken.”

Court Annuls Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

Uganda gay protestUganda’s Constitutional Court on Friday annulled an anti-gay law that had drawn widespread criticism.

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, had initially proposed a death penalty for offenders but was later changed to life in prison.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, had signed the law, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it would complicate relations.

A petition had been raised by activists who said that the anti-gay measure was invalid because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked quorum.