Exclusive: Darboe supports repealing homophobic law, death penalty

Darboe said homosexuality was an imaginary issue Jammeh used to oppress innocent Gambians but the phenomenon was no issue in the small country.

Lawyer Darboe

Lawyer Darboe

In one of his first interviews since his party gain majority in the country’s lawmaking body, the leader of Gambia’s biggest party has told The Torch that United Democratic Party will support the repealing of the law which punished homosexuals in the country up to life in prison.

Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, whose party won 31 of the 53 seats in the National Assembly, said the homophobic law which was brought in by Yahya Jammeh in 2014 was just meant to repress people.

“Homosexuality was perhaps something Jammeh imagine in order to bamboozle the clerics that were surrounding him… He used gay as a propaganda tool in order for him to continue to repress people.

“There was no need for aggravated homosexuality law… People were arrested here on allegations of being gays and they were later exonerated because there was no evidence. You pass laws to deal with situations not an imaginary problem.

“The aggravated homosexuality was a distraction and it should be taken out of the laws…,” Darboe said.

Gambian political leaders, except Omar Jallow who advocated for the legalization of the act, have all denied the existence of homosexuality in the country, claiming it is not “an issue”.

During his meeting with EU Commissioner Neven Memica about two months ago, president Adama Barrow has defensively said “gay is not an issue in Gambia” when asked what his government intends to do with their rights.

Gambia is a majority Muslim country with a good Christian population where homosexuality is considered an “ungodly act”, thus all political leaders, even those with liberal views tries avoiding it.

Darboe, like all others, won’t recognise it as a problem let alone to give it attention.

Omar Jallow

Omar Jallow, leader of Peoples’ Progressive Party, is the only Gambian political leader who believes gays are in Gambia and their rights ought to be protected. Jallow is a fire brand in Gambian politics who has once called for legalization of Cannabis sativa in 2014. He is known for saying it just as it is in his head. 

The “aggravated homosexuality” carries punishments of up to life in prison and among those who could be charged with it are “serial offenders” and people living with HIV who are deemed to be gay or lesbian.

Exactly what constitutes “homosexuality” or a “homosexual act” is not defined in Gambian law.

Rights activists say that makes Gambia’s criminalization of homosexual activity even more likely to be used broadly and arbitrarily.

Darboe said they will also proposed the repealing of death penalty from the Gambian constitution.

“We feel that the laws must be obeyed and that no one has the right to take the life of another person. But the question is: is death penalty a deterrent to crimes. It is not. So we will advocate to repealing of death penalty,” Darboe said.

The UDP leader also spoke of their intentions to advocate for two term limit in Gambian constitution, media law reforms and absolute majority in place for simple majority in elections act.

Darboe also said it is his party’s priority to extend franchise to Gambians in the diaspora.

Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow who came to power on the backing of a coalition government has promised several constitutional and legal reforms.

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