Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

People carry a gay pride rainbow flag.
Andrea Comas/AP
Citizenship

Gabon Lawmakers Vote to Decriminalize Homosexuality


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations' Global Goals include a call to reduce inequalities, regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race, religion, or any other status. Gabon’s decision to declare that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of fundamental rights is a big step forward — and will hopefully provide an example to other countries around the world that haven't yet made this step. You can join us by taking action to help achieve the UN's Global Goals here.

Gabon's lawmakers have voted to officially decriminalize homosexuality, France24 reported.

On Tuesday, the country's National Assembly voted in favor of revising a law that criminalized homosexuality — which was considered an "an offence against morality" in text that had been introduced by the Senate as part of a new law in July 2019.

The previous law made homosexuality punishable by up to six months' imprisonment and a fine of 5 million CFA francs (about $8,500). 

In total, 48 members of parliament (MPs) voted for the amendment — with the support of Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale — while 25 abstained, and 24 voted against it.

Bekale welcomed the initiative on Twitter, stating he was against “the stigmatization of homosexuals” in spite of his religious beliefs. He also praised lawmakers for their efforts to “change mentalities” and for their ability to “adapt to the times”.

Prior to voting on the amendment, Gabon was among the 73 countries or jurisdictions worldwide that criminalize homosexuality.

In sub-Saharan Africa — where 28 out of 49 countries have laws against homosexuality — same-sex relationships are still widely criminalized, stigmatized against, or even punishable by the death penalty

According to Human Rights Watch, COVID-19 has also increased stigma against gay people in parts of the region — and is pushing many into poverty and life-threatening living conditions.

Related Stories Sept. 6, 2018 India Decriminalises Homosexuality in a Huge Win for Gay Rights

And while the revision marks a step forward for LGBTQ+ rights, not everyone supports it.

People on social media and some politicians have expressed mixed feelings about the outcome of the vote.

“Forty-eight lawmakers have shaken an entire nation and its customs and traditions,” one member of parliament, who voted against the revision, told Reuters.

Related Stories June 11, 2019 It's No Longer a Crime to Be Gay in Botswana

The LGBTQ+ community has also expressed concern over being subject to negative backlash from Gabonese citizens, who are mostly against the amendment, according to Leslie Obuo, an LGBT+ journalist based in the country.

“Just them starting this has stirred up homophobia and when or if it is passed, I expect that the law will be met with resistance from the general population,” said Didier, a gay man living in Gabon, to Reuters

He added: “Riots and violence against the community will probably peak and eventually the government might do another U-turn.”

The revision has yet to be approved by the Senate under the same terms for it to come into effect.