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Nay Sayers Dominate LGBT Debate in Gambia As EU Calls for Tolerance

Gay men in Zimbabwe courtesy: The Tribune

The Gambians except for a view have raised strong opposition to the advocacy of the legalization of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) practice in the country.

The hot debate was ignited on social media by the European Union in The Gambia where it states that ‘no Gambian should be excluded from fully participating in Gambian society.’

The Sunday’s post went on to indicate that: “One may not agree with someone’s personal choices and preferences, but gay and lesbian Gambians are, first and foremost, Gambians. #Breakthesilence  #IDAHOT2020

The World commemorates the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on 17th May.

The two separate posts on Facebook have generated lots of comments from Gambians, some of whom accused the EU of doing excess by interfering in the ways of life of Gambians. Some also labelled the LGBT practice as filthy and uncultured lifestyle, arguing the Gambia is a religious country that will not condone such practice.

Speaking to The Chronicle, Sanna Kanyi, a Gambian said, the fundamental pillar of human existence to date is as a result of the ability to marry and procreate. He said God has legislated marriage between two opposite gender and creates love and affection between just them.

“If it were good for men to marry men and women to marry women, God would have allowed it and created the same affection between the two. The society we live in and the influence from peers make others engaged in the unnatural same sex marriage which is an abominable sin,” he said.

“The act of same sex marriage, transgender and bisexual is by far against the teachings of the believes of 99.9 percent of the Muslims and Christians of The Gambia. So, if the EU is really concerned with the human rights of our people then they should not come near an act condemned by 99.9% of our land.”

Sanna Kanyi

Sanna believes that the LGBT isn’t just against the religious values of the land but against the cultures, norms and practices.

“The Gambia is a religious state and a state with rich cultural values and norms. The idea of LGBT is totally against these values and we won’t trade them for any so-called aid coming from any nation or union,” Sanna tells The Chronicle.

For Adama Ceesay, LGBT practice is not human rights in The Gambia. He said the practice is against public morality, and they will protect the valued culture, religions against it.

“EU doesn’t accept polygamy which according to one of my friends from Spain is a women’s right issue for them. For us it’s part of our human right which they deny us in EU countries. LGBT for us too is against our public morality, culture and religious values. So, LGBT and polygamy are two things we considered differently, so we should respect each other’s values without trying to impose one’s view on another,” he tells The Chronicle.

Adama Ceesay

He said the Gambia is an independent and sovereign country that will not accept imposition of the LGBT by any country or entity.

“We decide for ourselves and do it our own ways. They can keep their aid money as we are better-off without it if the LGBT is its condition. Our leaders have to be strong and tell them plainly that LGBT is not part of our ways. It’s a no-go area for them,” Adama said.

Omar Susso has also commented on the issue. He said the EU should stop interfering in the ways of life of Gambians.

“Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender are forbidden by our culture and value and religions. We have our own ways of democracy in our society and we don’t intend to borrow any man’s way of living,” he said.

Omar also questioned the European’s way of living that prohibits polygamy, saying it will be unfair to preach for the acceptance of LGBT.

“As Gambians, Muslims and Christians, we will never accept them in our society because they are not one of us. If they [referring to the EU] are giving budget support and other financial assistance to us just to change our ways of life and bringing something that is against our norms and values, let them stop it.”

Omar Susso

However, Ansumana Darboe is one of the few Gambians who believe that LGBT is a fundamental human right and people involved in it deserve to be respected by society. He’s optimistic that with more civic engagement, societal perception could change.

“The advancement of gay rights in the Gambia can only be achieved through engagement of civil societies, religious leaders, educational institutions etc back by media campaign on homophobia as human right. This can lead to enactment of laws to protect them as citizens.”

According to him, the United Nations has been working with Member States to reject discrimination and criminalization based on homophobia and transphobia.

“The Gambia as a member of the United Nations and some of her citizens who are part of LGBT community should start working on rejecting homophobia criminalization as a democratic state for the protection of human rights.”

Meanwhile the European Union (EU) Ambassador to The Gambia, Attila Lajos tells The Chronicle that the recent ignition of the issue is due to the commemoration around the world the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on 17th May.

The World Health Organization in 1990 asserted that homosexuality is not a mental disorder but a biological fact.

Attila Lajos

“The EU joined the UN and CSOs worldwide and marked the occasion of this International Day to pay tribute to human diversity in its richness, to speak against discrimination and raise awareness on LGBTI rights.

“This is in line with our values, and non-discrimination is also sacrosanct in the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. Sadly, discrimination worldwide against LGBTI persons still happens every day, and people identified as gay cannot live their lives freely.

“This causes suffering all over the world but also in The Gambia – we feel sorry about that, and think it is important to raise awareness about this suffering,” Lajos said in an interview with The Chronicle.

He said the EU’s aim is to raise awareness of the fact that discrimination causes sufferings.

“The Gambia is a sovereign state, we are not here to exert any kind of influence on how the country is run – contrary to what was said in many of the responses we received to our social media posts last Sunday,” he indicated.

Lajos said The Gambia is a party to a number of international treaties and agreements that protect universal human rights and makes non-discrimination a legal obligation for the state parties.

However, he clarified that it’s up to The Gambia as a sovereign state to take the decision to decriminalise homosexuality (or not) – a crime which could put people behind bars for the rest of their lives.

“As European Union, we will always underline the importance of being tolerant, of accepting people in all their diversity, be it on the ground of sex, gender, religion, age, ethnic background or, indeed, sexual orientation.”

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