Gambia official rebuffs Western criticism of country’s anti-gay law

Bala Garba Jahumpa

Bala Garba Jahumpa

DAKAR, Senegal — The Gambian government has lashed out at Western donor nations that have criticized a new law that punishes some homosexual acts with life in prison.

Bala Garba Jahumpa

Bala Garba Jahumpa

The 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.

The new law, which went into effect Oct. 9, 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.

The law contains language identical to an anti-gay bill signed into law in Uganda this year that was later overturned by a court.

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

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