Homosexuality has been widely criminalised in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half of its countries banning or repressing homosexual relations in a few places, with the threat of the death penalty. However, on 29th of June, Gabon’s Senate decided to decriminalize homosexuality, sparking an outcry from traditionalists that this went against local social and religious norms.
The National Assembly voted to adopt an amendment to criminal legislation to remove a paragraph prohibiting “sexual relations between persons of the same sex”.59 senators in the upper house also voted to scrap the law, with 17 against and four abstentions. It will formally become law once the president ratifies it but several prominent politicians and clergymen and imams have reacted angrily to this development, saying it was an “un-African” measure aimed at appeasing foreign donors.
The criminalisation of homosexuality went almost unnoticed in this country of fewer than two million inhabitants when it was adopted last year. The text was introduced by the Senate, the upper house, into a draft law in July 2019. It stipulated that having homosexual relations in Gabon was considered “an offence against morality”, punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of five million CFA francs ($8,600, 7,600 euros).