Lawmakers in the Central African country of Gabon just voted to decriminalise homosexuality, after making gay sex illegal just last year.
In 2019, Gabon, on the west coast of Central Africa, criminalised same-sex relations with a penalty of up to six months in prison as well as a fine of 5 million CFA francs (£6,393).
At the time, LGBT+ rights activists in Gabon said that the new law against homosexuality had “further sent the LGBT+ community underground and has created harassment”.
But, according to Reuters, lawmakers in the country’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday, June 23, to revise the 2019 law and decriminalise homosexuality. Forty-eight members of parliament backed the revision, while 24 voted against it and 25 abstained.
Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the wife of Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon, 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.”
For the bill to be passed, it must still be approved by the country’s senate.
Le Parlement rétablit un Droit humain fondamental pour ses citoyens: celui d’aimer, librement, sans en être condamné. La République défend le respect de la vie privée de chacun et reste Une et Indivisible au-delà des sentiments. Oui à la dignité, non à la haine. #Gabon4304:53 – 24 Jun 2020Twitter Ads information and privacy62 people are talking about this
Although the vote has been celebrated as a win for the LGBT+ community in Gabon, the country still has no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and sexuality remain taboo.
One member of parliament who voted against legalising gay sex told Reuters: “Forty-eight lawmakers have shaken an entire nation and its customs and traditions.”
Gay sex is illegal in 33 out of 54 African countries, and many of the laws are remnants of European colonialism. Six 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.
Gabon is one of 73 countries or jurisdictions worldwide where sex between people of the same gender is illegal.