Accra, Ghana
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent non-governmental organisation created to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth. We push for an adherence to the Commonwealth's Harare Principles and the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CHRI was established in 1987 after several Commonwealth countries voiced their concern about a lack of focus on Human rights within the Commonwealth organization. CHRI currently has three offices; in Delhi, London and Accra. The Africa office was opened in Accra in 2001 and is at the forefront of the fight to uphold basic human freedoms in the region. We work in three main areas of human rights: Human Rights Advocacy; Access to justice and The Right to Information.

Thursday 16 June 2011

LGBT Situation in The Gambia

As part of our weekly look at the LGBT situation in African here is the situation in The Gambia.

The Gambia, ironically home of The African Union’s Court on People and Human’s Rights, has one of the worst human rights records in West Africa. President Jammeh has been criticised for electoral malpractice, ordering arbitrary arrests and hounding journalists.

As a popular holiday destination there has also been growing conflicts between the country’s Muslim society and the conduct of European holiday makers. In June 2009 two Spanish men were arrested for allegedly “making homosexual proposals” to a taxi driver. (Amnesty International)

Law that Criminalises Homosexuality

The Criminal Code of 1965, Revised Laws 1990, as amended in 2005[1]

Article 144 criminalises ‘unnatural offences’ which are described as any person who has or permits another to have of him or her ‘carnal knowledge of a person against the order of nature’, or with an animal.  Carnal knowledge includes knowledge of the person, or inserting any object or thing through the mouth, vulva or anus for the purpose of stimulating sex, as well as any other homosexual act.  Whoever commits this felony is liable to up to 14 years in prison.

The amendment of 2005 expands the definition of unnatural carnal knowledge to also include women.

Section 147 criminalises any female who whether in public or in private commits any act of gross indecency, or procures or attempts to procure a female for that purpose.  Whoever is guilty of this felony is liable to five years imprisonment.

In the amendment of 2005 section 147adds the crime of female indecency, where presumably before it only applied to males.
Practical Consequences of the law

President Jammeh is reported to have given gays and lesbians 24 hours to leave the country while speaking in the town of Tallinding on May 15, 2008, during a presidential “Dialogue with the People” tour. According to the Gambian newspaper, The Daily Observer, Jammeh was quoted as saying, “We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals [homosexuals] in this country.” During the speech he also vowed to “cut off the head” of any homosexual caught.[2] Gambia has a high Muslim population. This could well be a reason for the reluctance amongst the public to view homosexuality as being anything other than a crime. 1,084,000 follow the religion of Islam, constituting 90% of the overall population.

Constitutional Clause on Equality or Right to Privacy

Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, 1997, Reprinted 2002[3]

Fundamental Freedoms are guaranteed under Article 17 wherein it is decreed that all fundamental rights and freedoms are enforceable in the Courts in accordance with the constitution.  Subsection (2) affirms the entitlement of every person in the Gambia to the fundamental human rights and freedoms contained in the chapter, whatever his race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest. This right can be limited for public interest reasons.

Privacy is protected under Article 23 wherein it is affirmed that no person shall be subject to interference with the privacy of his or her home, correspondence or communications save as is in accordance with law and, in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This right can however, be limited for public safety reasons.

The right to protection from discrimination is guaranteed under Article33, where the expression “discrimination” means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

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