By Baba Sillah
As the Constitutional Review Commission continues its consultation tour around the country on the proposed draft new constitution, a majority of rural communities have expressed concern about the inclusion of pro-LGBTQ laws in the new constitution.
A majority of people who have spoken to The Standard clamoured for laws allowing homosexuality not to be included in the ‘New Gambia’ constitution on the grounds that it is “against the morals and religious values of the country”.
The issue of gays attracts spirited suggestions alongside death penalty and electoral reforms.
Modou Bah, the alkalo of Pakau Njogu, expressed that pro-gay laws should not be included in the constitution as “homosexuality is against the teachings of the Qur’an, and the morals and culture of Gambians”.
He said the promulgation of any law that promotes homosexuality will be regarded as an affront to the values and cultures of Muslims and Christians.
The village headsman told the commissioners to consider the issues raised by the people with “open minds and open hearts”.
However, a man who describes himself as “a human rights activist”, had a contrarian view. He told this paper: “I consider myself a liberal and a social democrat. I do not support the death penalty. I believe the state putting people to the guillotine is state-sanctioned murder and is abhorrent, inhumane and barbaric to say the least. There should be no death penalty. On same-sex marriage, I won’t like it to be legalised by the new constitution but we have to accept that gays are Gambians and human beings and there should be no law to trample on their rights. In other words they should be left alone and not be prosecuted or discriminated against.”
The issue of homosexuality took centre stage during the Jammeh regime. The former president called gays “vermins” and threatened to bury six feet deep anyone caught engaging in same-sex acts.
His tough stance and vitriolic anti-gay statements were partly responsible for the diplomatic censure and withholding of aid by the EU and the US.
Meanwhile, other matters that were raised during the CRC tour were calls for the appointment of district chiefs and extension of voting rights to prisoners and Gambians abroad.