Gabon just officially decriminalised gay sex in a landmark and historic vote for the Central African nation

Ali Bongo Ondimba, central africa, decriminalisation of homosexuality, gabon, Homosexuality, illegal, Law, LGBTQ, News, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, World

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

In a momentous landslide victory for LGBT+ activists, the upper house of the Gabon parliament, the Senate, voted to decriminalize homosexuality.

It comes after lawmakers in the lower house of the west coast central African country voted to reverse a law criminalising same-sex relations that was only introduced in 2019. It carried a penalty of up to six months in prison as well as a fine of 5 million CFA francs (£6,393).

As much as the move to decriminalise gay sex cracked the lower house – passing 48 to 24 – it received a larger backing of 59 senator’s votes, Reuters reported, on Monday 29 June.

Gabon Senate votes to decriminalise homosexuality in a stunning victory for LGBT+ rights.

The bill will now be ratified by the Gabonese Republic’s president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, said presidency spokesperson Jessye Ella Ekogha.

Bongo’s wife, Sylvia Ondimba, also voiced her support for the bill. She wrote on Twitter: “Parliament is restoring a fundamental human right for its citizens: that of loving, freely, without being condemned.

“The republic defends respect for everyone’s privacy and remains one and indivisible beyond feelings.

“Yes to dignity, no to hate.”

Nevertheless, the move to revoke a law barely a year-old sparked division among lawmakers.

“My religious convictions, my education and the vision I have for my country do not permit me to accept such an abomination,” said senator Jean-Christophe Owono Nguema ahead of the vote.

The continent of Africa has long been shaped by religion and the spectre of colonialism, both of which have made change when it comes to LGBT+ rights, at times, slow and spotty.

Last year, for example, while raucous cheers were heard in Botswana’s courts when justices decriminalised gay sex, twinges of fear were felt when Kenya’s courts voted for the opposite, upholding an anti-gay, British colonial-era penal code.

Gay sex is illegal in 32 out of 54 African countries, and many of the laws are remnants of European colonialism. Seven have legalised it since 2012.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), as of 2016, five countries – Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Mauritania and northern Nigeria – still punish homosexuality with the death penalty.

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