From the look of things, the Human Rights Commission, European Union, and their sister institutions are now intensifying their efforts to corner the government of the Gambia to legalize same-sex, sex-change, queer lifestyle as part of the country’s social and cultural norms. However, their pronouncement sparked public outcry among majority Gambians who in their numbers, took to various social media platforms to showcase their dismay on the issue.
As it stands right now, 99% percent of Gambians do not see the need to further the discussion to the National Assembly for debate, calling the matter a non-issue. The former president Yahya Jammeh had many of his decisions challenged by the Gambian population, but his stance against the idea of normalizing LGBTQ was unanimously welcomed by almost everyone. In an interview, he wholly rejected a similar call to decriminalize same-sex lifestyle, citing it as un-African. Additionally, he rejected the narration that anti-gay law was introduced in Africa by colonial powers. Many Africans share Jammeh’s view with the argument that the ‘colonial-era law’ rhetoric is a reverse psychology tactics often used by western Right Groups and leaders. It is widely believed that homosexuality, incest and others have always been a taboo and against African values even before colonialism.
Standard Newspaper, a local media reported that a Human Rights Group is expected to submit a report to lawmakers urging The Gambia government to deepen efforts to combat acts of discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and create a culture of tolerance for diversity and differences. However, The Gambia is one of the most tolerant and peaceful nations in the world, therefore the so-called cases of violence against gays is merely a strategy to make the issue a national debate. It’s been reported by the New York Times that pushing the LGBTQ agenda on African nations over the years have done more harm than good to the cause.
Earlier this year, the Senegalese president told the Canadian PM in a press conference that Senegal’s laws reflected its cultural norms and that the citizens would reject legalizing homosexuality. According to Sall, it has nothing to do with homophobia and gay people are not ostracized in Senegalese society but every country has its own “metabolism” for change. On social media, many young Africans would argue that labeling Africa’s view on same-sex lifestyle as homophobia is the same as saying anti-polygamy culture in the western world is polyphobia (hatred toward polygamous individuals)
The issue of sexuality and relationship has never been universal as cultures and norms varies. For instance, in the United States, almost all states criminalized incest with the exception of New Jersey. Sibling relationship is accepted in the states of New Jersey because to some, it is an expression of individual right. However, other states within the US do not share this view thus criminalize the act.
In The Gambia, it would be premature to forcefully push the LGBTQ agenda on its entirety as the social structure would not support it. Moreover, a country whose medical sector is still struggling to tackle childbirth mortality rate cannot provide a healthy reassignment therapy and surgery to individuals willing to change their gender just because it makes them feel uncomfortable. According to recent international analysis, transgender women have 49 times the odd of having HIV compared to others. Additionally, a US national survey shows that 24.9% of African-American transgender women are living with HIV.
The international human rights committee and western governments must allow African countries to handle the issue on their own than imposing it on them through threat of sanctions and the use of aid as baiting mechanism. The local agent heading the Human Right Group, Emmanuel Joof says in an interview that he will refuse to be pushed like Yahya Jammeh who actually reduced human rights to gay right. It is not a new thing to see Africans being used to promote non-value added ideologies and activities on their own people by outside forces. In regard to LGBTQ issue, it is the western-educated human right lawyers and activists such as Emmanuel Joof who often promote the agenda, partly because of financial gains or position.
Perhaps the time has come for the international communities to allow Africans to design their own rights as people. The west should stop seeing Africans as people who must be taught how to run a society. In the western world, the opinion of citizens are always put into consideration on national issues but sadly, the same is not accorded to Africans.. Over the years, Africa’s growth has regressed because the continent accepted many sociological and economic theories from others.
The EU and Right Groups should let Gambians decide what they can or cannot accept as part of their culture not a government which comes and go with time. The civil society will forever remain. The status quo is currently not a social issue in The Gambia and it is best to let it take its course without agitating for detrimental change.