Gambia has become the latest country to pass homophobic ‘gay hate’ laws, with life imprisonment for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

Homosexual acts were already punishable by 14 years in prison; in 2008, president Yahya Jammeh ordered gay men and lesbians to leave the country or risk having their heads cut off. He has been quoted as saying: ‘We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.’

In addition to ‘serial offenders’ and people living with HIV, the legislation gives examples of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ as when the suspect engages in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or has been drugged, or is the parent or guardian of the other person, or is ‘in authority over’ them, such as a teacher. The law contains language identical to Uganda’s anti-gay Bill, which was recently overturned on a point of law – because not enough MPs had turned up to vote on it.

Dr Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust, said: ‘The Bill discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, denying them equal rights to which they are entitled under international law. It will have a devastating impact upon the lives of LGBT people in Gambia who, already suffering persecution, will now face the daily threat of life imprisonment. This Bill is part of a homophobic trend, following similar draconian legislation in Nigeria and Uganda. The Equal Rights Trust will work in solidarity with its partners in Africa and elsewhere to counteract this trend and ensure all people their rights to freedom, dignity and equality.’